Indonesia to suspend visa-free and visa-on-arrival arrangements for one month to curb spread of coronavirus

A cleaning worker sprays disinfectant inside the cabin of a Lion Air Boeing 737-800 at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport near Jakarta, Indonesia, March 17, 2020.
A cleaning worker sprays disinfectant inside the cabin of a Lion Air Boeing 737-800 at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport near Jakarta, Indonesia, March 17, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Indonesia will suspend its visa-free and visa-on-arrival arrangements for one month, starting Friday (March 20), as part of its attempts to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the world's fourth most populous nation.

The change requires all foreigners to apply for a visa at Indonesia's overseas missions in accordance with the "intention and purpose of the visits", Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Tuesday.

"When applying for the visa, they must attach a health certificate from health authorities in their respective countries," she added in a statement.

The new travel policy will affect all foreigners, from tourists to business people and diplomats.

At the same time, Indonesia will ban the entry and transit of foreign nationals who have been, in the past 14 days, to Iran and seven countries in Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Vatican City and United Kingdom.

Yet another measure requires all arriving visitors to fill a health alert card on their travel history, and hand it to the authorities at the Indonesian points of entry.

"If the travel history shows that in the last 14 days the person concerned has visited these countries, then the person concerned may be refused entry to Indonesia," Ms Retno said.

Earlier restrictions on travellers from China and South Korea's Daegu city and Gyeongsangbuk-do province will continue, she added.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has advised its citizens to avoid non-essential travel abroad.

Indonesians who visit the eight countries on the ban list will be given extra health examination on their arrival home, and they will be quarantined at government facilities for 14 days when found to show symptoms of the Covid-19 disease.

Those with no symptoms will be advised to do a 14-day self-quarantine.

Indonesia reported another 38 cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 172.

Most of the new cases are from Jakarta, East Java, Central Java and the Riau Islands, said Mr Achmad Yurianto, the government spokesman for Covid-19 management.

He also said the capital, Jakarta, contributed the biggest number of infected cases.

"We understand that as the country's gateway, Jakarta is quite big, and as the mobility of its population is very high, the probability of contact (by the people) with positive cases is quite high," he added.

The number of deaths remains at five, while nine people have recovered and returned home, said Mr Achmad, who is also the Health Ministry's director general for disease control and prevention.

He added that not everyone identified through contact tracing are being treated at hospitals. Dozens of them with mild symptoms have been asked to self-isolate at home.

Apart from 132 referral hospitals nationwide, the government has appointed 109 military hospitals, 53 police hospitals and 65 hospitals run by state-owned enterprises to treat Covid-19 patients.

Several private hospitals are also participating in the treatment of Covid-19 patients, Mr Achmad said.