Indonesia may lift quarantine rules for visitors before April

A tourist riding a water-powered hoverboard in Bali on Feb 23, 2022. Since Feb 3, Bali has received 1,300 inbound passengers, 700 of whom are foreigners. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Currently travellers have to serve five days of quarantine but this will be cut to 3 days from March 1. PHOTO: AFP

DENPASAR (Bali) - Indonesia is considering allowing quarantine-free travel earlier than expected as Covid-19 cases trend downwards around the vast archipelago.

The government had previously indicated that the country would open to quarantine free travel on April 1.

"It is very possible if the currently good condition further improves," said Senior Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, referring to the move towards bringing forward quarantine-free travel.

"Earlier (today), we have discussed what the scenarios may be like before we report to the President in a Cabinet meeting," said Mr Luhut, who is tasked with coordinating efforts to curb the virus spread in the most populous island of Java and the main tourist island of Bali. 

"If all is good, we expect to do it in the second or third week of March," he added in a reply to a query from The Straits Times during a media briefing in Bali on Friday (Feb 25).

The country's flag carrier - Garuda Indonesia - and Singapore Airlines have resumed flights to Bali.

Garuda has been flying to and from Tokyo since Feb 3 and SIA has been doing so to and from Singapore since Feb 16.

Since Feb 3, Bali has received 1,300 inbound passengers - 700 of whom were foreigners and the remainder returning Indonesians.

Currently, travellers have to serve five days of quarantine, but this will be cut to 3 days from March 1.

Other airlines such as KLM Royal Dutch, Scoot Tigerair and Jetstar Airways may also resume flights to the resort island, according to the Indonesian government.

Separately, on Friday, Health Minister Budi Sadikin said Indonesia expected fewer Covid-19 cases soon because the number of daily cases in six major provinces have passed their peaks.

The six provinces are Jakarta, Bali, Banten, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Maluku and Papua.

"West Java and East Java are nearing their peak and if cases in these two provinces peak out and then decline, Indonesia's national daily cases number will decline," Mr Budi said.

West Java and East Java, which together account for 90 million people, are Indonesia's two most populous provinces.

Like many other countries, Indonesia has reported a surge in Covid-19 cases due to the more transmissible but less severe Omicron variant of the coronavirus, with the first confirmed case in the country coming in mid-December.

The number of daily cases has surpassed that recorded during the previous wave blamed on the more deadly Delta variant.

But the number of patients in hospital now is a fraction of those during the Delta wave.

Only 38,164 cases were in hospital on Thursday, with 2,829 - mostly those with underlying health conditions, the elderly or unvaccinated - in intensive care units.

Daily hospitalisations peaked at 93,256 patients in mid-July during the Delta wave with 8,179 needing intensive care.

The two ministers on Friday inspected health facilities in Bali, which will host the Group of 20 summit tentatively scheduled for November.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.