Local News

Bali sets ‘alert’ status amid COVID-19 outbreak, rolls out advisory on social distancing

The Bali provincial government declared an “alert” level status for the island amid the COVID-19   pandemic today, followed by an advisory for local residents to stay at home and avoid crowded places. “Citizens are advised to avoid shopping centers, entertainment areas and other crowded places until March 30,” a press statement signed by Bali Governor Wayan Koster today reads. Today marks the beginning of school shutting down for at least the next two weeks in Bali, a move that has also been taken by leaders in other provinces in Indonesia, including West Nusa Tenggara, Jakarta and Central Java.

With the “alert” status in Bali, government officials are also expected to work from home with all government-related activities suspended until March 30. Civil servants are also barred from traveling, both domestically and internationally, on official trips in order to minimize their chances of contracting the virus.

One of the most notable parts of the advisory is the limitation or cancelation of “crowded activities or entertainment” until the set date, which may therefore impact planned events before and after the Balinese Day of Silence, or Nyepi, on March 25, which involves a lot of public gatherings. The advisory includes several social distancing “suggestions” for the public, which advises citizens not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary, to postpone all activities that will draw the masses, and to avoid traveling to their hometowns or out of town.

“In regards to religious activities, do as much as possible at home and try not to gather too many people,” the statement reads. There is no mention of closing tourist destinations on the island yet. The statement comes a day after President Joko Widodo advised the nation to “work from home, study from home [and] pray from home,” amid the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Many experts have noted the importance of social distancing as an effective means to contain the pandemic.

Today, Jokowi says the archipelagic nation is not yet considering lockdowns, highlighting that such a decision will come from the central government and not regional authorities. As of this morning, Indonesia has 308 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including a British woman in Bali who was the country’s first COVID-19 death last week. Local health authorities in the province have traced 23 of her close contacts, and said that all of them tested negative for the novel coronavirus. This includes her husband, who had reportedly been with the patient the entire time.

A total of 17 patients are currently under COVID-19 observation in Bali as of yesterday, according to the head of the province’s health agency, Ketut Suarjaya. Five of them have tested negative, while authorities await results from the remaining 12. (Coconuts.com 16/03/2020)


Indonesia to suspend visa-free and visa-on-arrival arrangements for one month to curb spread of coronavirus

Indonesia will suspend its visa-free and visa-on-arrival arrangements for one month, starting Friday (March 20), as part of its attempts to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the world’s fourth most populous nation. The change requires all foreigners to apply for a visa at Indonesia’s overseas missions in accordance with the “intention and purpose of the visits”, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Tuesday. “When applying for the visa, they must attach a health certificate from health authorities in their respective countries,” she added in a statement.

The new travel policy will affect all foreigners, from tourists to business people and diplomats. At the same time, Indonesia will ban the entry and transit of foreign nationals who have been, in the past 14 days, to Iran and seven countries in Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Vatican City and UK.

Yet another measure requires all arriving visitors to fill a health alert card on their travel history, and hand it to the authorities at the Indonesian points of entry. “If the travel history shows that in the last 14 days the person concerned has visited these countries, then the person concerned may be refused entry to Indonesia,” Ms Retno said. Earlier restrictions on travellers from China and South Korea’s Daegu city and Gyeongsangbuk-do province will continue, she added.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has advised its citizens to avoid non-essential travel abroad. Indonesians who visit the eight countries on the ban list will be given extra health examination on their arrival home, and they will be quarantined at government facilities for 14 days when found to show symptoms of the Covid-19 disease. Those with no symptoms will be advised to do a 14-day self-quarantine. Indonesia reported another 38 cases of coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 308. Most of the new cases are from Jakarta, East Java, Central Java and the Riau Islands, said Mr Achmad Yurianto, the government spokesman for Covid-19 management. He also said the capital, Jakarta, contributed the biggest number of infected cases.

“We understand that as the country’s gateway, Jakarta is quite big, and as the mobility of its population is very high, the probability of contact (by the people) with positive cases is quite high,” he added. The number of deaths remains at five, while nine people have recovered and returned home, said Mr Achmad, who is also the Health Ministry’s director general for disease control and prevention.

He added that not everyone identified through contact tracing are being treated at hospitals. Dozens of them with mild symptoms have been asked to self-isolate at home. Apart from 132 referral hospitals nationwide, the government has appointed 109 military hospitals, 53 police hospitals and 65 hospitals run by state-owned enterprises to treat Covid-19 patients. Several private hospitals are also participating in the treatment of Covid-19 patients, Mr Achmad said. (straitstimes.com 19/3/2020).


Bali internet shutdown for Nyepi to go ahead, ‘vital’ services exempted

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. (Coconuts.co 19/03/2020)


Bali authorities to limit Nyepi celebrations following social distancing advisory

Authorities in Bali today announced a number of limitations for celebrations around the Balinese Day of Silence or Nyepi on March 25, along with the expectations that local residents will still adhere to previous advisories from the central and provincial governments amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The circular, signed by Bali Governor Wayan Koster, the head of Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI) in Bali I Gusti Ngurah Sudiana, and the chief of Bali’s traditional village council Ida Panglingsir Agung Putra Sukahet, places limits on the number of participants, location and duration of several ceremonies and parades that are traditionally synonymous with Nyepi.

This includes the Ogoh-Ogoh parade that usually takes place on the eve of Nyepi, which they note as not being an “obligation” for Hindus in celebration of the holy day. “Which is why it’s better that Ogoh-Ogoh parade does not take place,” the circular reads. However, should the public decide to go on with the parade, it must be done between 5 and 7pm on March 24 and within the area of their local banjar, or local community organization, under the authority of the local village chief.

“It cannot go on beyond that [time],” Sudiana said, as quoted by Kumparan. The Bali provincial government yesterday declared an “alert” level status for the island as part of an effort to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by an advisory for local residents to stay at home and avoid crowded places. As of yesterday, the latest official updates in Bali show that 75 people are being monitored for COVID-19, while 52 others have tested negative for the viral disease. The island has so far recorded one positive case, who is also the first COVID-19 death in the whole of Indonesia. (Coconuts.com 18/03/2020)


Nearly 2,000 tourists flock to Bali after West Nusa Tenggara closes access to Gili Islands

Tourists visiting the Gili Islands in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) have reportedly made their way to neighboring Bali, following the NTB provincial government’s decision on Sunday to close access to the popular destination from Bali amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a report from Bali Post, which cited authorities from the Port of Padang Bai, the number of tourists taking the fast boat from Gili Trawangan almost doubled yesterday, with 1,951 passengers recorded. NTB declared a state of emergency for the province on Sunday as part of a regional effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak, and decided to close tourist access to the Gili Islands from Bali for at least the next two weeks. The decision came as a preemptive measure, NTB Governor Zulkieflimansyah said, noting that at least one positive case for the coronavirus has been officially recorded in Bali.

“According to a circular issued by the NTB provincial government and the regent of North Lombok, fastboats are prohibited from operating to Gili Trawangan for 14 days, from March 16 to March 30. After that date, the decision will be reevaluated by the local authorities,” Padang Bai Port Authority (KSOP) head Ni Luh Putu Eka Suyasmin, told Tribun.

Over the years, tourists visiting Bali often continue their trips to Lombok by taking a boat via Bali’s Padang Bai, a trip which takes about 75 to 90 minutes. Regional authorities have said how a miscommunication might have occurred since the declaration, and said that closed access to the Gili Islands only apply for fast boats coming from Bali.

“We are closing fast boat access coming from Bali to the three Gilis temporarily. For tourists who are already on the islands can carry on with their vacation, whoever wants to leave can do it at any time and supply of daily goods are still normal,” said I Gede Putu Aryadi, an official from the NTB government, as quoted by state news agency Antara. (Coconuts.com 18/03/2020)