JAKARTA - The Indonesian province closest to Singapore, the Riau Islands, including Batam and Bintan, is the area most ready to reopen to tourists from neighbouring countries as coronavirus infections have declined and stabilised, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno has said.
The plan is to start reopening tourist spots in Nongsa (Batam) and Lagoi (Bintan) on April 21, ahead of the country's main tourist spot Bali, which is expected to reopen only in June or July, the minister said after a meeting with Batam officials on Saturday (March 20).
"Batam and Bintan are far more ready," he said.
Reopening the Riau Islands would pave the way for Indonesia to have a possible "safe travel corridor" with Singapore, Mr Uno stressed.
Citing President Joko Widodo's directive, Mr Uno said international borders across the archipelago may gradually be reopened, taking into consideration how effective the efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 have been in the various regions.
Indonesia has a number of entry points through which foreign travellers may enter, such as Batam, that had regular ferry links to Singapore, Bali that had direct flights to several countries, and Manado in North Sumatra, linked by air with China.
Direct routes connect Singapore with Nongsapura in Batam and with Bintan's Bandar Bintan Telani ferry terminal.
"The Covid-19 infection number in Riau Islands province has flattened and stabilised, and in the two tourism spots Nongsa and Lagoi, there have not been any new infections," Mr Uno said.
"Our hope is we can continue to keep it low and under control (there)."
Any foreign tourist entering Indonesia through the province would have to show a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test result and will be screened upon arrival using GeNose, a Covid-19 breath test system.
Information technology will also be used to trace and track the movement of the tourists, Mr Uno added.
As part of the preparation for the possible safe travel corridor with Singapore, the Indonesian government has ramped up vaccination in Batam and Bintan, targeting to have a total of 30,000 tourism workers inoculated by April.
On Saturday, 1,500 tourism workers in Batam and 2,000 in Bintan were given Covid-19 vaccine jabs.