The Indonesian Minister for Human Development and Culture, Muhadjir Effendy, has announced that there is a ‘big chance’ that all Covid-19 restrictions will soon be removed. Speaking at a press conference in Jakarta on the 22nd of May, the minister confirmed that the government is reviewing evidence that may result in the end of all restrictions.
The news comes in the same week that President Joko Widodo is visiting Bali for the 7th Global Platform For Disaster Risk Reduction. The 5-day conference hosted in partnership with the United Nations is welcoming over 4,000 delegates to Bali.
At present Bali is on PPKM Level 2 meaning, these visiting delegates, tourists, and local people are all living with some restrictions. These include the wearing of masking in indoor public settings and on public transport.
The PPKM Level 2 was extended two weeks ago for Java and Bali. The mandate requires cafes and restaurants to operate at 75% capacity. Diners may only be seated for an hour, and there are still some restrictions on serving hours for the hospitality sector too. Shopping malls, event spaces, and places of worship may only operate at 75% capacity.
The Bali tourism sector needs to be operating at 100% capacity as soon as possible. Local business owners can only recuperate losses from the impact of 2-years of international lockdowns preventing travelers from heading to Bali if they are able to operate without capacity restrictions.
All this may soon change, however. According to Minister Effendy, the government is looking closely at the data being presented to them by the Covid-19 Task Forces nationwide. He said that the president’s decision to drop the mask mandate in outdoor public settings and the pre-arrival PCR test for vaccinated travelers was a good sign. He also stated that delegates at the Global Platform For Disaster Risk Reduction are not being managed in bubbles.
He confirmed that delegates are unrestricted at the conference, they are allowed to explore Bali freely and are not restricted to their hotels and conference venues. This is significant as it shows that international government delegations are feeling comfortable enough to operate business travel with minimum Covid-19 restrictions.
If President Joko Widodo returns from the Global Platform For Disaster Risk Reduction with positive feedback from the event it is likely he will commit to further mandate relaxations.
Effendy reported that the next level of restriction reduction would be to remove masks in indoor settings and on public transport. His feelings have been echoed by a leading epidemiologist from the Faculty of Health of the University of Indonesia, Pandu Riono, who urged the government to erase all remaining restrictions as of the 23rd of May to enable locals and tourists more freedom.
At present, it seems the biggest factor in removing the remaining mandates is the Covid-19 vaccine rollout. The uptake of the vaccine in Bali has been high. The local government reported last week that they were renewing efforts to ensure that the elderly population had all received their second dose.
They also confirmed that the Bali Covid-19 Task Force had been instructed to do spot checks for vaccine certificates now they did not have to police masks wearing in outdoor settings. They have been instructed to encourage those who are not fully vaccinated to take their free vaccine at the nearest center, and for those who had been double vaccinated to take their booster shot.
It is likely that authorities will wait to assess data from the coming weeks to see if there is an increase in local caseloads following the removal of the pre-arrival PCR test for vaccinated travelers. If caseloads remain low it is believed the mandates will be rapidly removed allowing for full economic recovery to begin and tourists to be able to visit Bali with the freedoms they enjoyed before the pandemic.
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