Charlie Coe – Bali may have to shut its borders again and go back into lockdown to stop a surge in coronavirus cases, a health expert has warned.
The popular Indonesian tourist island was due to reopen to foreign travellers from September – but those plans have been shelved until at least the end of the year as daily case totals in Bali tripled over the past six weeks.
Bali itself has had at least 100 new cases daily for the past two weeks and has recorded 7,366 COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began.
A leading virologist at Udayana University in the island's capital Denpasar said the island needed to be closed off again even to the country's other provinces to stop the spread of the virus.
'The ideal condition to suppress the number of COVID-19 cases would be under lockdown,' virologist I Gusti Ngurah Mahardika told Coconuts.
'[That means] close Bali temporarily, limit people's movement – permitting leaving the house only for very important purposes, such as looking for food, medicine, and the likes.'
Officials in Bali have defended the decision to re-open the province's border to domestic tourists from July 31.
But deaths in the past six weeks have since doubled, with 151 people on the island having now lost their lives to the virus. Indonesia as a whole has recorded more than 197,000 COVID-19 cases and 8,000 deaths.
Alarming photos last week emerged showing soldiers walking down the streets of Denpasar handing out fines of 100,000 rupiah ($9.30 AUD) to anyone without a face covering.
Face masks have been mandatory in public across Indonesia since early April.
Authorities previously came up with a range of punishments for those refusing to comply including performing push-ups and buying one kilogram of rice to go towards Bali locals severely affected by the pandemic. Some police officers even made offenders dance.
Bali was supposed to welcome back international tourists from September 4 but has since announced this has been pushed back until the end of the year.
'The Indonesian government couldn't reopen its doors to foreign travellers until the end of 2020 as we remain a red zone,' Mr Koster said in a statement last month.
'The situation is not conducive to allowing foreign tourists to come to Indonesia, including to Bali.
'Bali cannot fail because it could adversely impact the image of Indonesia, including Bali, in the eyes of the world, which could prove counter-productive to the recovery of travel.'