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Preparations under way to reopen Riau Islands to tourists from some countries on Thursday: Indonesian minister

From Oct 14, travellers from 18 countries will be allowed to enter Bali and Riau Islands. Singapore has not been included in the list.

Preparations under way to reopen Riau Islands to tourists from some countries on Thursday: Indonesian minister

Visitors are seen arriving at the ferry terminal on Batam island in Indonesia. (File photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

JAKARTA: Preparations are being made to reopen Riau Islands province to international tourists from some countries on Thursday (Oct 14), said Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto.

In a virtual press conference on Monday (Oct 11), he said the health protocols applying to the reopening of Bali would also apply to the Riau Islands.

“It will be applied exactly, including the different countries which will be able to enter as well as requirements, including insurance,” he said.

He added: “The president has instructed that a centralised isolation centre be prepared. The reopening of this area will be a trial run and a model which can be replicated in other areas. It is effective on Oct 14 and we will issue a decree on this.”

Last week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan announced that Bali's airport will reopen to some international travellers, also on Thursday.

Speaking at the same press conference on Monday, Mr Pandjaitan said travellers from 18 countries would be permitted to enter Bali. He did not divulge the list of countries and would only say that they will be announced via a ministerial decree to be issued soon.

Mr Pandjaitan said eligible travellers must be fully vaccinated with a second jab taken at least 14 days prior to departure to Indonesia. Travellers must also have insurance coverage for COVID-19 treatment worth at least US$100,000 and pay for their own accommodation during a five-day quarantine period.

"We hope that the reopening of international flights to Bali which will occur this week will restore Bali’s economy gradually back to pre-pandemic level. The reopening will be done carefully even though cases have declined," he said.

Bali’s economy, which is dependent on tourism, has been severely battered since the pandemic began.

The Indonesian Statistics Agency estimated that the pandemic has caused a 89 per cent drop in the number of tourists arriving in Bali. At least 75,000 workers have either been laid off or forced to take unpaid leave.

Bali’s international airport was closed in August for international travel following a deadly second wave of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia.

The central government has said earlier that it plans to reopen Bali to international tourists this month.

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

On Sunday, however, Riau Islands Governor Ansar Ahmad clarified that there is no intention to cancel the proposed travel bubble.

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,” said Mr Ansar.

He also said that the provincial government had proposed that the Nongsa Pura ferry terminal in Batam can be reopened to international visitors.

When asked during the Monday press conference if there would be any restrictions for travellers from Singapore to Indonesia, Mr Pandjaitan replied: “Regarding the 18 countries, they do not include Singapore because the requirements according to WHO (World Health Organization) standards of level 1 (low risk) and level 2 (moderate) countries have not been met."

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Source: CNA/ni

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