West Nusa Tenggara closes tourist access to Gili islands

FIle photo of a person bikin in Gili Air. Photo: Unsplash
FIle photo of a person bikin in Gili Air. Photo: Unsplash

UPDATE March 18: West Nusa Tenggara Governor Zulkieflimansyah has clarified to the media that access to Gili Islands is only closed for tourists coming in directly from Bali. Additionally, tourists who are still in either Gili Trawangan, Gili Air or Gili Meno, can still leave the islands at any time. 

The West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) provincial government has closed tourist access to popular tourist spot Gili Islands on the northwest coast of Lombok, as regional authorities declared a state of emergency for the province amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“They have found a positive case for the coronavirus in Bali, [so] access to the three Gilis will be closed,” NTB Governor Zulkieflimansyah said yesterday, as quoted by state news agency Antara, adding that many tourists visit Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air via Bali. 

NTB is also canceling a number of events related to tourism and religion that are expected to draw the masses, while also stepping up surveillance at the Zainuddin Abdul Madjid International Airport in Lombok and the Port of Lembar in western Lombok. 

“We are taking anticipative measures. But it’s not that we are creating fear in the destination,” Zulkieflimansyah added. 

The governor said that the province is prepared to tackle the viral disease, adding that the public should not panic and claiming that NTB has got a cure for the novel coronavirus. 

“The public should not overly panic. The NTB province has a cure for the coronavirus. It’s what they used in China and Korea, we’ve got it. And that’s what we will use if anyone tests positive,” Zulkieflimansyah said. 

The quick measures taken by the NTB government so far is commendable, but the governor’s claims of a cure is questionable at best, if not outright false. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19. Clinical trials are currently ongoing for possible vaccines and specific drug treatments, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

School’s out 

Starting today, schools across the West Nusa Tenggara and Bali provinces are shut for at least the next two weeks, as part of an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Students are expected to still participate in lessons through online means. 

Other provinces in the country, including Jakarta, Central Java and Banten, have also moved to shut down schools for the next two weeks. 

President Joko Widodo yesterday advised citizens of the archipelagic nation to begin staying at home, while also reassuring that the Indonesian government is taking quick steps to anticipate the impacts of the pandemic and increasing testing and capacities of healthcare facilities across the country. 

Bali, for its part, has also moved to postpone a number of festivals slated for this month and the next, though the provincial government here has yet to consider a lockdown for the island. 

Indonesia has seen a huge surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past week, with 21 new cases confirmed in the latest official update yesterday, bringing the total number of domestic infections to 117. The new cases consist of 19 in Jakarta and two in Central Java, according to a statement issued by the Health Ministry.

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