Jakarta – Representatives of the tourism industry in North Sumatra's Samosir regency, which includes a large portion of the Lake Toba area, oppose a local policy mandating the rapid testing of visitors to the area.
The businesses say the policy, which was announced on Oct. 14, has brought nothing but disadvantages to the already suffering industry in the area. Samosir Island, which sits in the middle of Lake Toba, is one of the nation's most popular tourist destinations.
Entrepreneur Ombang Siboro said the opponents of the policy had sent a letter to the administration and would take legal action if their request was ignored.
"We are going to issue a letter of summons if the administration has no plan to revoke the circular on mandatory rapid testing," Ombang told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Ombang, the former head of the Samosir Tourism Agency, believed the requirement would discourage people from coming to the island.
He said rapid testing would not be beneficial if people were neglecting mask wearing, hand washing and physical distancing.
Uci Manurung of the Samosir Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI Samosir) said mandatory rapid testing would only hurt businesses on the island and could result in layoffs.
"There are hundreds of hospitality workers in Samosir who face possible layoffs if the administration continues to require rapid testing because doing so will only harm the tourism business," said Uci, adding 430 people could be laid off.
The Samosir administration issued the circular that established rapid testing as a precondition for entry last week. The regency will also accept negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results.
The administration also requires people entering Samosir to have their body temperatures checked with an infrared thermometer.
The circular was signed by acting Samosir regent Lasro Marbun.
Samosir Tourism Agency head Dumosc Pandiangan said tourism businesses need not be too worried about the policy. "The circular will only be effective temporarily," he said.
North Sumatra COVID-19 task force secretary Arsyad Lubis said the mandatory rapid testing policy sought to stop virus transmission in Samosir.
He added that he had coordinated with Lasro regarding the policy and that three main things needed to be done to handle COVID-19, namely halting in-person classes for students, performing health checks on anyone entering the regency and limiting events that attracted crowds, including cultural and religious activities.
Arsyad said the health checks could be "conducted in the form of rapid testing, body temperature checks and health protocol implementation."
"We need these three approaches so we don't have any more confirmed COVID-19 cases in Samosir," he said. (apg)