Hundreds attend mass prayers as Bali prepares to reopen amid pandemic

A prayer ceremony at Besakih Temple on July 5. Photo: Istimewa via Kumparan
A prayer ceremony at Besakih Temple on July 5. Photo: Istimewa via Kumparan

Hundreds of people attended mass prayers in Bali as officials in Indonesia’s top tourist destination appear set to follow their tentative plan to kickstart the so-called “new normal” and eventually reopen for tourists, the first phase of which would begin this coming Thursday at the local level. 

Yesterday, the Bali provincial government organized a prayer ceremony at the Besakih Temple in Karangasem regency, seeking blessings for the start of the “new normal” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which reportedly saw hundreds of people in attendance. 

“We are still trying our best to handle COVID-19, but at the same time we must restart activities to continue the livelihoods of the people,” Bali Governor Wayan Koster said. 

Bali has reported 1,849 COVID-19 cases and 20 deaths so far. Cases of local transmissions traced back to traditional markets have contributed to notable spikes in recent weeks, following imported cases being the more dominant ones at the beginning of the outbreak. 

Bali Governor Wayan Koster speaking to the masses at Besakih Temple on Sunday, July 5 2020. Photo: Bali Provincial Government
Bali Governor Wayan Koster speaking to the masses at Besakih Temple on Sunday, July 5 2020. Photo: Bali Provincial Government

The current plan will see activities within the island restarting this week and followed by a welcome of domestic tourists at the end of the month, with “strict health protocols” maintained to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, secretary to the Bali administration Dewa Made Indra said. 

While the first phase will see restaurants reopening across the island, the tourism sector will only be allowed to reopen during the second phase starting on July 31. Meanwhile the third phase, which might see Bali opening to foreign tourists, is set for Sept. 11. 

Though officials are hoping for the best, Koster reiterated that the plans are still “tentative” in nature. 

Despite various restrictions that have been put in place since the beginning of the outbreak, Bali has stopped short of going into a full lockdown and official data have yet to suggest a slowing rate of coronavirus infections in the province.

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