Indonesia may have reported its record number of daily cases just a few days ago, but the crowds on Bali's beaches over the weekend may have you believe that COVID-19 in this part of the world is well under control, despite the grim reality.
A number of videos reportedly taken just yesterday are making their rounds on social media, showing great numbers of people on beaches in Sanur and Seminyak. It appears that some people did wear masks, though it's hard not to notice those who didn't bother, or simply didn't use them properly. Social distancing, on the other hand, was barely observed.
Another video showed a group of people waiting to bathe at Pura Tirta Empul in Gianyar regency. A 20-persons limit at the holy springs was observed, but enforcement of rules appeared less strict outside of this spot, as there were no social distancing at the queue and only very few people were seen wearing masks.
The pandemic quickly spiraled into a blame game in most parts of the world, and one look at these kinds of videos might lead some of us – especially those who have been isolating at home – to point our fingers at individuals who don't comply with health precautions. However, those who have been closely following the Indonesian government's handling of the outbreak would not miss the fact that it has been wobbly at best.
On Nov. 13, the Southeast Asian country reported its highest daily count so far of 5,444 cases, followed by the second highest count of 5,272 the next day. Indonesia's COVID-19 task force said they are concerned that spikes may have resulted from the five-day long weekend at the end of October, prompting them to consider scrapping collective leave days mandated at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, official numbers from Bali show a total of 12,691 cases as of yesterday afternoon, which includes 404 deaths. The province has yet to report a spike in cases following the long weekend in October, which saw thousands of domestic tourists visit the island.
Following videos of crowds on the beaches, head of the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) in Badung, I Gusti Agung Ketut Suryanegara, said authorities are always "maintaining order" on beaches.
"Sometimes it's a dilemma between them who are eating, drinking, or smoking, so we strengthen order when entering and leaving the beach by requiring them to wear masks, wash hands, and have their temperatures checked," Suryanegara said today.
He added that every beach in Bali has its own management teams, who are more active and persuasive in reminding visitors to follow health protocols. In addition, the decision to allow beaches to open have also gone through a verification process.