Local News

Indonesia to temporarily ban all foreign arrivals, transits to curb further spread of coronavirus

JAKARTA – Indonesia will temporarily ban all visits and transits by foreign nationals to the country to curb the further spread of the coronavirus. “President (Joko) sees that our current policy needs to be made stricter. We have decided that all visits and transits by foreign nationals to Indonesia will temporarily be banned,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters after a virtual ministers’ meeting with President Joko Widodo on Tuesday (March 31).

Exceptions to the ban include those with work permits as well as diplomats, Ms Retno added, stressing that proper health protocols will still apply. President Joko said before the ministers’ meeting that Indonesia is stepping up measures to limit mobility among its citizens within the country, but threats of coronavirus spread also come from overseas. Mr Joko pointed out specifically that the epicentres of the pandemic have shifted to the United States and Europe.

In Indonesia, Jakarta is the epicentre of the country’s coronavirus crisis, accounting for nearly half of the 1,414 confirmed cases. There are 122 deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Indonesia so far, the highest in South-east Asia. Stay in the know with e-mail alerts. “Practically all nations have put in place limits on the flow of travellers with varying (degree of) strictness depending on the respective situation and condition in each country,” Ms Retno said.

Their policies have also impacted Indonesians living overseas, many of whom have recently returned home or are preparing to head home. According to Ms Retno, the two largest groups of homebound Indonesians are Indonesian migrant workers from Malaysia as well as Indonesians working as crews on cruise ships.

“The inflow traffic from these two groups has been far larger than normal,” Ms Retno said. “In terms of size, the number of Indonesians living and working in Malaysia exceeds 1 million. And there are 11,838 Indonesian crews working for 80 cruise ships, as per data gathered so far,” Ms Retno added.

She said the government is implementing proper health protocols at airports, seaports, border check points on these returning countrymen. Mr Joko on Monday said Indonesia needs stronger measures to limit mobility after receiving reports that thousands of workers in Jakarta and its surrounding areas have returned to their home towns after losing most or all of their income amid the coronavirus outbreak.

There have been concerns of a spread of infections as people from Jakarta, the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, return home. The government is preparing regulations that would make it possible for Jakarta and other coronavirus red zones to be put under an “area quarantine”, a term observers see as equivalent to a lockdown, which would stop flows of people going in and out.

Coordinating maritime affairs and investment minister Luhut Pandjaitan said in a video message on Tuesday that the government would take the decision within this week, stressing however Indonesia would use the term lockdown.

Indonesia would also issue a presidential emergency decree that would allow the government to have an annual budget deficit of larger than 3 per cent – currently not allowed by the existing laws – so that it could spend more to deploy cash, especially to the poorest population in the country. This exemption would apply for three years, before a normal threshold of 3 per cent would be reinstalled for 2023 annual budget year.

“(Finance Minister) Sri Mulyani is currently making her calculation. What if we give the bottom 40 per cent or 20 per cent direct cash handouts. It is being thoroughly calculated,” Mr Luhut said. President Joko said on Monday that over the past eight days alone, 876 buses had transported about 14,000 people in Greater Jakarta back to their home towns, mostly in West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta and East Java provinces.

Others had taken the trains and ships home, he added. These are mostly daily-rated workers such as push-cart food sellers, in what is termed the informal sector of the economy.(straitstimes.com 01/04/2020)


Bali plans to hold Nyepi-like observance to curb COVID-19 spread

Bali province’s Majelis Desa Adat, or traditional village council, says there are plans to hold a Nyepi-like observance later this month as part of an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 on the island, with the final decision set to be announced tomorrow.

The council’s chief, Ida Panglingsir Agung Putra Sukahet, told Tribun yesterday that nothing has been decided for the time being, as authorities would need to hold a meeting first.

We will decide on April 8. If it’s going to happen we will issue an official circular from traditional village council,” Agung Putra was quoted as saying.

The observance, locally referred to as sipeng, will only mandate that people stay at home for three consecutive days and will not follow the exact same rules as the Balinese Day of Silence, according to reports.

Ordinarily, Nyepi encourages self-reflection by prohibiting activities such as lighting a fire, working, and traveling or going out, among others. The planned sipeng, however, would only prohibit people from leaving their homes.

While official details have not been announced, news of sipeng quickly made its rounds on social media, showcasing divided opinions among local residents. Prompted by concerns over COVID-19, som e are supportive of the initiative, while others question how people are expected to meet their daily needs should the observance take place. “I agree, but it’s
important to inform the general public way ahead of the actual dates. So it doesn’t seem so abrupt.” “So will there be provision of food from the government?”

“Those who have plenty of money from monthly salary have it good as they can simply stock up, but what can we do when we depend on daily income. If it were to happen for four days please think it further wisely.”
As of yesterday afternoon, Bali confirmed eight additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the island’s total to 43. This includes 19 recoveries and two deaths of foreign nationals. (Coconuts.com 07/04/2020)


Thousands of workers in Bali on unpaid leave, hundreds more laid off

Local authorities in Bali are reporting hundreds of workers having lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 outbreak and its subsequent impacts on the tourism industry, while thousands more have been instructed to stay at home without pay.

In Denpasar, as many as 2,975 workers were told to stay at home without pay while another 53 workers were laid off, the city’s spokesman Gede Rai told Kompas, adding that the workers were from 37 different companies.
“It’s because there is a lack of guests and hotels are not operating,” Gede Rai said.

For the time being, authorities in Denpasar are reportedly planning a social protection strategy for these workers, including through Indonesian government’s pre-employment cards, which was launched last month. The cards, which aim to aid job seekers and unemployed workers, grant them access and funding to various trainings.

The numbers are even higher in Badung regency, where some of the island’s most popular hotels and restaurants are located. An official from the regency’s Industry and Manpower Agency told Tribun yesterday that 198 workers have been laid off as of April 4, most of whom were employed in the tourism sector.

“Everywhere [in Indonesia] is pretty much facing the same condition. We don’t know when this will end,” Ida Bagus Oka Dirga, who heads the agency, said.

He added that in Badung, more than 6,000 workers from 78 companies have been instructed to stay at home and given between 50 to 70 percent of their minimum salary.

“Right now, with the hotels empty, of course workers will burden the operational cost. That’s why they have instructed them to stay home. However, we do hope they won’t be laying off [these workers],” I Made Badra, who heads the Tourism Agency in Badung, told Tribun.

Bali hotels roll out cheap promos or shut to survive coronavirus outbreak
The Bali Hotel Association (BHA), whose members include general managers of over 100 four-star and five-star hotels and resorts in Bali, said that most accommodations and restaurants in Bali have opted to temporarily close for at least one month.

“At this time, almost all hotels and restaurants in Bali are closed temporarily for one to two months, as we monitor the most up to date situation,” BHA chairman I Made Ricky Darmika Putra told state news agency Antara yesterday.

Ricky also responded to circulating information that many hotels in Bali are up for sale, clarifying that those reports are false. In addition, he explained how hotels that are still open have less than 10 percent occupancy rates, while most restaurants have cut their operational hours short.

Meanwhile, some other hotels are still seeking to attract potential customers, and are rolling out cheap promotions on long-term stays. One example is Lv8, a hotel located in Canggu, which offers a one-month stay fee starting from IDR8million (US$481). For perspective, the hotel’s normal daily rate ranges from IDR800K-1 million. (coconuts.com 07/04/2020)


Hundreds of foreign nationals leave Bali amid coronavirus outbreak

Hundreds of foreigners departed Bali over the weekend, some with chartered flights organized by their respective governments, following flight cancelations across the globe amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The Ngurah Rai Immigration office said in a statement that over 200 foreigners, consisting mostly of German nationals, boarded a chartered German Airlines flight on Saturday headed for Frankfurt, while over 400 passengers consisting of mostly French nationals headed to France with Qatar Airways on the same day. In addition, Austrian Airlines also reportedly carried over 200 passengers back to Austria.

Foreign missions in Indonesia have actively used social media to assist their respective citizens. As fewer flights become available due to global travel restrictions, their efforts include assisting those seeking to return home to find available flights. I Putu Surya Dharma, a spokesperson from the regional office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, told Nusa Bali yesterday that between March 1 and 26, nearly 254,000 foreign tourists have left the island. However, the same period also recorded over 169,000 foreign tourists arriving in Bali, he added. Travelers from Australia, Russia and the United States topped the list of visitors.

Last week, American and Australian citizens in Indonesia were ordered to leave the country amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, wherein officials also cited evidence of Indonesia’s current medical capacity, among other things, to urge immediate action. Some foreigners have decided to extend their stay in Indonesia, it seems, as evident by packed immigration offices across Bali last week. Indonesia’s Directorate General of Immigration has swiftly responded to the spike in visa extension requests, and eligible foreigners unable to return to their home countries due to COVID-19 are being given an automatic extension for their stay permits. (coconuts.com 01/04/2020)


No Large-Scale Social Restrictions policy for Bali just yet, provincial government says

The Bali provincial government says it has yet to consider imposing Large-Scale Social Restrictions (PSBB) policy, which requires approval from the central government, to curb the spread of COVID-19 here, claiming that it has already implemented similar steps to an extent.

Speaking to Kumparan yesterday, regional secretary of the Bali administration, Dewa Made Indra, said that the provincial government is open to implementing PSBB, should risks of the novel coronavirus on the island continue to escalate and require a stricter approach.

“Here in Bali we are already enforcing strict limitations. Substantially we have preceded this PSBB policy, but formally and according to the [new] government regulation of course we haven’t,” Indra said.

PSBB is designed to limit mobility within a region,essentially imposing the same social distancing measures that have already been seen in parts of Indonesia affected by the viral disease, though this includes additional measures and stricter enforcement.

The policy includes shuttering of all businesses and services except those deemed essential, and also banning app-based motorcycle taxis from picking up passengers, meaning they are only allowed to transport goods and deliver food to customers.

The official implementation requires regional governments to submit relevant data and reports regarding COVID-19 spread in their area to the Health Ministry, among other things, which will assess them and decide on whether or not to grant approval. The process has been criticized for being overly bureaucratic.

Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, which has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, is set to become the country’s first region to officially enforce PSBB. As of this afternoon, the city reports 1,395 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 133 deaths and 69 recoveries.

Bali, for its part, has so far reported 43 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 19 recoveries and two deaths of foreign nationals. (coconuts.com 07/04/2020)