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No intention to cancel proposed Riau Islands-Singapore travel bubble, clarifies provincial governor

No intention to cancel proposed Riau Islands-Singapore travel bubble, clarifies provincial governor

Bintan's Bandar Bentan Telani ferry terminal on November 24, 2020. (Photo: Kiki Siregar)

JAKARTA: There is no intention to cancel a proposed travel bubble between Indonesia’s Riau Islands and Singapore, said provincial governor Ansar Ahmad on Sunday (Oct 10). 

Earlier in the week, Indonesian media as well as other regional news outlets, including CNA, had reported that the proposed travel bubble was cancelled, based on comments reported by state news agency Antara.

In a virtual press conference on Sunday, the governor said there has been no single statement from the Riau Islands provincial government stating that it is asking to cancel the travel bubble. 

“Instead, we encourage the acceleration of this travel bubble to be realised,” he said.

“Tonight, I must clarify that this travel bubble has been discussed for a long time because the COVID-19 condition in Riau Islands is already much better, has plateaued. The president stated that he will soon open both Bali and the Riau Islands to foreign tourists of several countries, to be determined by the central government,” said Mr Ahmad. 

The central government has earlier announced that Bali's airport will reopen to international travellers from some countries on Oct 14.

In an Antara report published on Oct 6, Mr Ahmad was quoted as saying that the proposed travel bubble has been cancelled as “the number of COVID-19 cases in Singapore is still high”.

He noted on Sunday that the central government is the final decision-maker when it comes to the reopening issue.

“Regarding the COVID-19 situation in Singapore, it is, of course, the consideration of the central government and it will be discussed tomorrow,” said the governor. 

“Hopefully tomorrow there will also be a decision (on) which will be opened, which will be the pilot project, which ports will be opened. We propose that Nongsa Pura (ferry terminal in Batam) can be opened.”

The proposed travel bubble between Singapore and Riau Islands’ Batam Nongsa and Bintan Lagoi was first mooted by Indonesia’s Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiago Uno in March while visiting Batam. 

He later added that the “safe travel corridor” was meant to attract visitors from Singapore to Indonesia, and not vice versa.

A few days later, Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said during his visit to Jakarta that both countries should ideally have “the same level of control” over COVID-19 transmissions before travel arrangements could begin to resume.

The government of Riau Islands subsequently proposed to the Indonesian tourism ministry that the travel corridor could start on May or Jun 1, but the plan was put on hold when Indonesia experienced a second wave of COVID-19 which peaked in mid-July.

As the caseload started to drop in August, Riau Islands officials had on several occasions said they were hoping to open its door to Singaporean tourists. The central government, however, has not given any indication on when the plan could materialise.

During the Sunday press conference, Mr Ahmad said that the provincial government has proposed that the quarantine period for the travel bubble should be three days as the tourists’ average length of stay in Bintan and Batam is three days.

He also said travellers should be subject to a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test in their country and upon returning. They should also be fully vaccinated.

As of Sunday, Indonesia reported 894 new cases, five of which were in Riau Islands, bringing the total caseload to around 4.2 million.

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Source: CNA/aw

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