JAKARTA, June 29 (Reuters) – The Indonesian government will wait until COVID-19 cases significantly decrease before opening Bali to foreign tourists, the country’s tourism minister said in an interview.
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated Bali’s economy, which has attracted vacationers for decades with its spectacular beaches, vibrant nightlife and distinctive Hindu culture.
“We were aiming for the end of July, the beginning of August, but we just need to be aware of where we are in this recent peak (in cases of coronavirus),” Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and Economy told Reuters cultural, Sandiaga Uno. interview Monday.
“We will wait until the situation is more favorable.”
Coronavirus infections have increased across Indonesia in recent weeks, including in Bali, where there has been a four-fold increase over the past month, albeit from a low base, to around 200 cases per day, according to official data.
Uno said he wanted daily coronavirus infections in Bali to drop to 30 or 40 a day before reopening.
The true extent of infections in Bali is obscured by its low testing rates, which stand at 15% of the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization, according to data released by the world health body.
The Indonesian government has prioritized Bali for vaccinations, and has seen good early results as most people infected with the coronavirus only had mild symptoms, Uno said. As bed occupancy rates approach 100% in many parts of the densely populated neighboring island of Java, he said the rate was below 50% in Bali.
About 71% of Balinese have received a first dose of the vaccine, and the goal of full vaccination for 70% of its population could be reached by the end of July, Uno said.
Domestic travelers to Bali will now need to take a PCR test before entering, a step to isolate the island from the pandemic.
In addition to traditional tourists, Bali hopes to attract âdigital nomadsâ – international entrepreneurs who operate internet-based businesses. They will be granted five-year visas under the proposed regime.
“If they earn income in Indonesia, it will be taxed, but if they only come from abroad, there will be no tax,” Uno said.
Reporting by Tom Allard in Jakarta and Kate Lamb in Sydney; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell
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