People working remotely from Bali didn’t cause the province’s COVID-19 case spike, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said, as he has come out to defend the initiative that he’s been promoting since early this year.
“We want to clarify that the Work From Bali program has not triggered the recent case spike … The COVID-19 task force showed that the dominant case spike has been triggered by local transmissions, reaching as high as 84 percent,” Sandiaga said during a press briefing yesterday.
Nevertheless, Sandiaga said that the government’s planned Work From Bali initiative — which would involve having government workers come out in droves to work from the island starting in Q3 2021 — will be evaluated and modified following the latest developments.
Bali Governor Wayan Koster has backed Sandiaga on the issue, saying that there are no links between people coming to Bali to work and the recent caseload spike in the province.
“This is increasing because there has been more activity among the public. Because in Bali right now the situation is almost like normal,” Koster said.
Those statements are a departure from what Bali’s COVID-19 task force said just last week, whereby one local official suggested that the recent caseload spike was triggered by domestic travelers, who are either visiting either for travel, official trips, or to work from the island.
After about a month of reporting less than 100 daily cases, Bali’s daily infections count rose to the triple digits on June 19 and has been climbing up since. The province reported 238 new cases today, bringing the active cases to 1,599 and total cases closer to 50,000.
Despite what Sandi and Koster claimed, it’s pretty hard to overlook a possible correlation, given the fact that large swaths of domestic travelers have been visiting Bali for the past month or so — averaging between 8,000 and 9,000 people via air transport and around 10,000 people passing through Gilimanuk Port daily, per Koster’s own statement yesterday.
The governor has just announced tighter requirements for incoming travelers as well, in which only negative results from PCR swab tests are acceptable documents for air travelers visiting Bali, while those traveling via land or sea can still opt between PCR or rapid antigen swab tests. Under the new regulations, GeNose tests are no longer acceptable, and all test results are expected to come with a QR code to prevent fake documentation.