Indonesia curbs foreign tourist arrivals and locals’ movements amid Covid-19 spike

[JAKARTA] Indonesia has temporarily banned foreign tourists entering the country through Jakarta’s airport, the transport ministry said, in a bid to slow a spike in coronavirus infections driven by the Omicron variant.

The South-east Asian country has seen a jump in cases, with more than 36,000 infections recorded on Sunday (Feb 6) and the bed occupancy rate at hospitals in the capital reaching 63 per cent.

The move to bar tourists flying to Jakarta comes just days after Bali welcomed the first international flight in nearly 2 years carrying foreign visitors.

The new regulations apply to foreign tourists and Indonesians who have travelled abroad for holidays, the ministry said in a statement released late on Sunday. The decision to “temporarily restrict tourist arrivals” was intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, said Novie Riyanto, director general for civil aviation at the ministry.

Tourists flying from abroad will still be able to arrive at Bali airport, as well as at Batam and Tanjung Pinang in the Riau Islands near Singapore.

Indonesia has also tightened mobility in Jakarta, Bandung and Bali to the second-highest level as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus continued to spread rapidly.  The restrictions, which include limiting capacity at religious and other public places and reducing operating hours for supermarkets, malls and restaurants, will be implemented for at least a week, said Luhut Panjaitan, a cabinet minister who oversees the nation’s pandemic response in Java and Bali.  

Daily cases in those areas have exceeded highs seen during the previous wave, he told an online briefing on Monday. Testing and tracing need to improve and the hospitalisation rate has to decline before the government can ease the restriction levels, with a review set for next week, he said.

The curfew in downtown Jakarta is from midnight to 4 am.

Indonesian officials have warned that the surge in cases driven by the Omicron variant may not peak until late February.

Despite these concerns, the resort island of Bali welcomed a flight from Tokyo last Thursday carrying 6 foreigners, mostly travel agents who were on board to monitor the island’s readiness to receive foreign tourists.

Bali officially opened to foreign visitors from 19 countries last October, but with no non-cargo flights until last week foreign tourists have been limited.