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Riau Islands calls off proposed travel bubble with Singapore, citing spike in COVID-19 cases in city state

Riau Islands calls off proposed travel bubble with Singapore, citing spike in COVID-19 cases in city state

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

JAKARTA: A proposed travel bubble between the Indonesian province of Riau Islands and Singapore has been called off due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the city state, said Riau Islands Governor Ansar Ahmad. 

The travel bubble was proposed for Batam Nongsa and Bintan Lagoi, which were destinations frequented by Singaporean visitors prior to the pandemic. 

Mr Ahmad had said last month that Riau Islands would open its doors to fully vaccinated Singaporean tourists in October, following a decrease in COVID-19 cases in the province. 

However, the plan has now been cancelled given the current situation in Singapore. "The number of COVID-19 in Singapore is still high," he said on Wednesday (Oct 6), as quoted by state news agency Antara. 

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. 

Indonesia reported 1,484 new infections on Wednesday, 14 of which were in Riau Islands, taking the national total to around 4.2 million. 

In March, Indonesia’s daily COVID-19 cases were around 5,000, while Riau Islands recorded up to 50 daily cases. 

Riau Islands is currently at level one of a four-tier social mobility restriction system called PPKM, which is deemed the safest with low COVID-19 infections.  

Singapore, meanwhile, is seeing a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, after close to a year of single or double digits increase in daily infections. 

It recorded 3,577 new cases on Wednesday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. Total number of cases stood at 113,381.  

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Source: CNA/ks

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