Mardika Parama, Jakarta – A minister has urged travelers to comply with health protocols in Bali as the island has reopened for domestic tourists in the hope of reigniting the local economy hit by the pandemic.
National Development Planning Minister Suharso Monoarfa assured the public on Tuesday that the island was safe for visits and that the local administration and businesses were taking unprecedented steps to prevent COVID-19 transmission in the tourist destination.
"While we should remain vigilant with regard to the virus, we shouldn't be paranoid. It is safe to visit Bali, but please adhere to the health protocols implemented on the island," he said during an online discussion held by the ministry.
As Bali reopened for domestic tourists on Friday, an estimated 4,000 passengers reportedly arrived at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport. A representative of the Airport Authority Office Area IV, Puguh Lukito, said Ngurah Rai airport served 28 takeoffs and 28 landings on the day.
Tourism is among the sectors hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak as people stay at home and limit traveling to avoid catching the virus. Bali has lost an estimated Rp 48.5 trillion (US$3.33 billion) in tourism revenue between March and July, making the reopening a much-awaited move.
Bali Tourism Agency head Putu Aswata on Monday reported a surge in airport arrivals since the reopening, mainly by domestic tourist.
"Based on our observation at the airport, it seems there has been an increase of around 15 to 17 percent in arrivals," Putu said as quoted by Kompas.
Putu said the agency recorded 2,128 domestic tourist arrivals through the island's main airport on Friday. On Saturday, the number of arrivals declined to 1,847, before jumping to 2,419 on Sunday.
Minister Suharso urged tourists to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test prior to their visit to Bali, although the island accepts rapid test result as a requirement for visits.
"We should take a PCR test before and after our visit to Bali. The rapid test should only be used if we can't take the PCR test, as the former only shows our antibody reaction [to COVID-19]," he said.
Suharso also urged tourists to always bring along hand sanitizer, wet wipes and face masks during their trips and take a shower at the hotel at the end of the day.
Previously, Bali Governor I Wayan Koster expressed optimism that Bali would be ready for the full reopening of tourism, an industry that accounts for more than 52 percent of the island's economy.
Koster stressed that tourist attractions and facilities across the island had implemented the required health protocols to ensure the safety of patrons.
As of Wednesday, Bali has recorded 3,617 cases of COVID-19 with 3,130 recoveries and 48 fatalities, according to official data. Indonesia reported 116,871 cases and 5,452 deaths as of Wednesday.