Health and economy experts are weighing in on Bali’s expected limited reopening on Oct. 14, with some warning officials to tread carefully as they welcome back foreign visitors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan on Monday announced that the Ngurah Rai International Airport will start welcoming foreign visitors from select countries on Oct. 14. However, further details on COVID-19 requirements and visa arrangements have yet to be announced at the time of publication, though Luhut mentioned that all foreign visitors are expected to quarantine for a minimum of 8 days upon arrival at their own expense.
Yusuf Rendy Manilet, an economist from the Center of Reform on Economics (CORE Indonesia), noted that reopening foreign tourism may not result in a quick economic recovery, as an uptick relies on positive public health developments within the country and around the region.
“There are risks involved with this reopening plan,” Yusuf said, expressing concerns over welcoming tourists from countries where the COVID-19 situation has yet to improve.
South Korea, which is among the few countries that Indonesia plans on allowing visitors from, is currently battling a surge in new coronavirus cases.
Similarly, an economist from the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), also said that Indonesia ought to learn from its previous experience with the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which led to the country’s devastating second wave in July and August.
“The reopening for foreign visitors must also take into account the situation in other countries, not just the pandemic situation within the country,” Nailul Huda said, adding that the deeply battered tourism industry will likely take time to recover compared to other sectors.
“[We should be careful] not to let the government’s good intentions on restarting the economic wheel of tourism be paid with spikes in COVID-19 cases,” Huda said.
Furthermore, epidemiologist Dicky Budiman said the planned reopening should come as a trial period of at least one month, which should be enough time for officials to evaluate the areas in which they could further improve health precautions and services.
“Whether or not there will be cases [after the trial period] would still serve as an asset to improve, as opposed to just simply reopening — that’s dangerous,” Dicky said, adding that Bali should serve as a pilot location for the trial, from which other holiday destinations in Indonesia could learn from.