Bali authorities today confirmed that all internet service on the island will still be suspended for the Balinese Day of Silence or Nyepi on March 25, noting exceptions for a number of “vital” services including hospitals and police stations. The statement comes following rising concerns over access to information amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Internet, television, and social media access will remain cut off for the island starting at 6am on March 25 until 6am on March 26, according to a letter issued by the provincial government.
“… Except for vital public facilities such as hospital services, police stations, military, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), fire department, port authority and the airport,” an official circular reads.
This is Bali’s third consecutive year of going offline for Nyepi, a policy aimed at a successful and orderly observance of the Day of Silence, when Balinese Hindus are expected to self-reflect and therefore do nothing that may interfere with that purpose.
The Bali chapter of ARSSI, the association of private hospitals in Indonesia, on March 15 sent a letter to the provincial government requesting for the no-internet policy to be removed and permission to operate ambulances, citing concerns over the current situation with the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“We need internet access because we have to coordinate intensively via WhatsApp … so that there is no late handling and preventing cases from increasing, both for COVID-19 and dengue fever,” the letter, signed by ARSSI chairman Fajar Manuaba, reads.
However, the concession for vital services is actually nothing new, as public and emergency services have been excluded from the internet ban in previous years. The government has also confirmed that ambulances will be permitted to operate during Nyepi, as long as they remain in coordination with the local pecalang, or traditional Balinese security forces.
According to reports, fake news reporting normal internet services in Bali during Nyepi have been making its rounds recently and subsequently creating confusion among the public, leading to Bali Governor Wayan Koster making a clarification yesterday.
“[Internet access] for public services will remain active, and ambulances can operate like normal. And before Nyepi has always been that way, this is nothing new,” Koster said, as quoted by Kompas.