A new variant of Covid-19 in Bali has become a cause for concern for many communities across the island. On Friday 10th June Bali’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin announced the detection of four cases of Covid-19 Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 in Bali in late May. Although Minister Sadikin confirmed that the presence of the new variants was no need for concern, it has triggered a wave of panic across communities.
This has to lead to local health offices in Bali jumping to prevent the spread of misinformation and offer their advise on how to best deal with the new variant. This has included advise for local hotels to keep rooms free for potential isolation of guests.
On Tuesday 14th June, the Head of the Bali Health Office, Dr. I Nyoman Gede Anom spoke to the press to clarify some of the concerns raised by Health Minster Sadikin’s speech. He confirmed that the four cases of Covid-19 Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 were detected by members of three international delegations, and one Indonesian citizen attending the UN’s 7th Global Platform For Disaster Risk Reduction that was hosted by Bali at the end of May 2022.
He said that the individuals had been isolated as soon as they tested positive and that the individuals had recovered and returned home after the conference. Those who had contact had also been tracked, traced and tested via the PeduliLindungi app.
Now, health officials from the Badung Health Office have echoed the advice of Health Minster Sadikin and Dr. I Nyoman Gede Anom. The Acting Head of the Badung Health Service, Dr. I Wayan Darta, told reporters that although a new variant of Covid-19 was detected in Nusa Dua during the conference, all protocols had been followed and that there was nothing to fear.
He said ‘the BA.4 and BA.5 variants have mild symptoms and the mortality rate has not been found…We urge the public to remain obedient to the protocols, it is better to keep wearing masks, except in open space’. Currently mask mandates state masks should be worn in indoor public settings and on public transport unless medically exempt.
Dr. Darta went on to say that hotels across Bali should keep 20% capacity aside in case guests need to be isolated. He advised hotels that keeping rooms aside in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak within the property would enable hotel staff to quickly isolate relevant guests and staff so that testing can be carried out.
While this may not be possible for small, independent hotels and guest houses, it will be possible for large hotels like the ones used by international delegations attending the conference in Nusa Dua. Dr. Darta’s advice on keeping rooms available for isolation may be sound, but it will be another cause for concern for small hotels and bed and breakfast owners in Bali.
The hotel sector has been so heavily impacted by two years of the pandemic that many accommodation facilities simply can’t afford to run at a reduced capacity when they could be full. Bali is preparing for the first high season since the pandemic began, and flight bookings are soaring, as search for hotel options online.
Since February 2020, the highest that hotel occupancy has hit across Bali is 60%. Over the Eid Al-Fitr holiday in April hotels hit record occupancy, but only for the holiday period. Hotel owners in Bali saw this as a sign of hope and have been banking on a strong peak season during July and August.
Whether Dr. Darta’s advice will be added to the official list of Covid-19 protocols in Bali remains to be seen. Larger hotels that are serving big tour groups, or have the capacity to do so would be wise to keep 20% room occupancy aside for isolating guests. For smaller, independent hotels a decision will have to be made, weighing up whether keeping rooms empty can support their financial recovery long term.
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