Pressure to ban Bali-Australia flights had been mounting in recent weeks due to the discovery of Foot and Mouth Disease in cattle on the island. An official proposal to ban flights had been submitted to the Australian government, but the decision has been made to keep flight routes open and increase bio-security measures.
This is welcome news for the tourism sector which has only just begun the long road to recovery after successive lockdowns. Although it was the government’s decision to reject the proposal, tourism businesses on both sides of the Timor Sea were vocal in their disapproval of the proposed ban.
Speaking to Indonesia’s travel news site TravekDetik, Queensland Tourism Industry Council Managing Director, Brett Fraser said that the tourism industry is reliant on trust and reassurance for its customers. He said that speculation of a travel ban is scary for potential travelers. He explained ’travelers love to travel when they feel safe with the certainty of being able to return to their country again’.
Speculation of a travel ban came from Senator Susan McDonald who urged the Australian government to stop all flights from Bali. She said ‘If we don’t stop those flights, at least implement a seven-day quarantine…I don’t want to sit idle for a few weeks or months and later regret that I wasted the opportunity’.
Senator McDonald warned that travelers don’t need to have visited a farm to risk carrying Foot and Mouth Disease into Australia. In her statement, she said ‘the tourists who go to Bali…must be aware that there [could be] a pig or cow farm right next to the resort where they stay…The wheels of these tourists’ luggage can be exposed to dirt on the streets, the footwear they are wearing, and their clothes. Or they have even touched one of the animals nearby’.
The Australian government is finding a balance between caution and biosecurity and allowing freedom to travel. The impacts of a travel ban just months after borders have fully re-opened after Covid-19 lockdowns would create devastating economic losses all around.
Thousands of people have been waiting to return to the Island of the Gods for a beach holiday for over two years. New biosecurity measures have been introduced across Australian airports. This included the introduction of biosecurity detection dogs at Cairns and Darwin airports.
All airports receiving passengers from Indonesia, especially Bali, have introduced a more rigorous risk profiling of passengers. If passengers are flagged by the profiling measures they will be required to undergo more thorough checks by customs officials.
Travelers returning to Bali have been encouraged to leave their shoes behind, especially flip-flops since they are so hard to fully sanitize. Foot and Mouth Disease does not affect humans, but humans can create what is referred to as a bio-bridge for the virus to spread. The virus affects animals with loved feet like cows, sheep, goats, and deer. The virus survives on living tissue and secretions which is why mud and dirt on shoes are such a cause for concern.
The Australian government has announced an emergency funding package of AUD 14 million to help prevent the virus from reaching Australian pastures. The sizeable funding package may seem expensive but pales in comparison with the projected losses of AUD 80 billion should the virus be detected on Australian soils.
The emergency fund is being spent on implementing the new biosecurity measures and some is being sent to Indonesia, Timor Leste, and Papua New Guinea to help veterinarian teams on the ground get the situation under control.
Bali’s tourism sector is heavily reliant on Australian travelers and has only recently been able to welcome back visitors en masse. Veterinarian teams, farmers, and agricultural departments in Indonesia and Australia are working together to ensure that the virus is bought under control as soon as possible as both nation’s tourism and agricultural sectors are at stake.
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