President of Indonesia Joko Widodo has announced a removal of the outdoor mask mandate and pre arrival testing for international travelers. This including the popular island paradise of Bali. The announcement was made in a press conference broadcast to the nation from the Presendital Palace in Bogor, West Java, on Tuesday 17th May.
Jokowi shared how the decision had been made based on an assessment of evidence from across Indonesia that suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic is under control. He emphasized how despite heading in the right direction that person’s responsibility must be exercised. He urged that vulnerable people, the elderly, and those who live with Covid-19 comorbidities should still wear masks when socializing, as should those who they are socializing with.
People in closed public areas and on public transportation must still wear masks.
A translation of his statement is as follows ‘First, the government decided to relax the policy on wearing masks. If people are doing outdoor activities or in open areas that are not crowded with people, they are not allowed to wear masks. However, for activities in closed spaces and public transportation, you must still wear a mask…Second, for domestic and foreign travelers who have received a complete dose of vaccination, there is no longer a need for PCR or antigen swab tests.’
News of the pre-travel PCR test being scrapped for incoming vaccinated travelers comes as much welcomed news for families planning their holiday to Bali. Not only has the PCR test mandate been a cause for confusion for travelers but has also been extremely costly. It is thought the PCR test has been a limiting factor in potential travelers booking their visit to Bali. PCR tests for a family has been adding up to USD 300 extra onto a trip, making many low-budget family holiday unviable.
Despite the news from Jokowi being received as largely positive, the Governor of Bali sees the relaxation of mandates as a potential gateway for increased cases of Covid-19. The Governor of Bali, Wayan Koster, has released a statement to confirm that his regional government has submitted a request to the central government to declare Covid-19 an endemic in Bali.
An endemic is defined as a disease or virus that affects a large number of people within a definable community, population, or region. A pandemic is a widespread and rapid spread of disease, essentially an endemic across multiple countries.
Declaring an endemic in Bali would enable the regional government to mandate their own Covid-19 regulations. Wayan Koster is not keen on lockdowns or restrictions, but he is keen to see Bali’s emergence from Covid-19 to be a one-way journey that is sustainable. Bali is currently in Level 2 of the nationwide restrictions which place limitations on the capacity of public spaces including places of worship, cafes, and event spaces.
Koster is keen to see an increase in second doses of vaccines and booster shots, as well as proof that caseloads don’t increase with increased numbers of tourists before relaxing all Covid-19 regulations in Bali. In his letter to the central government, Governor Koster wrote “In this regard, I request the Minister of Health to be pleased to establish an endemic status for Bali…I ask you to apply a new policy that is special for PPLN (lockdown legislation) to Bali, namely not requiring a PCR test in the context of accelerating the recovery of tourism and the Balinese economy”. He has Bali’s economic recovery at the front and center of his mind.
Koster is specifically asking for endemic status to keep the mandate for the negative PCR test and mask mandate in place.
It is not yet clear if Koster’s request will be granted. For now, however, the pre-arrival PCR test has been scrapped and masks in open, outdoor settings are no longer mandated in Indonesia.
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