Jakarta – The government is mulling a plan to vaccinate most of the Bali residents in the next two months and to open the islands for foreign tourists by July to reinvigorate its economy, a senior minister said last week.
Today, Indonesia still prohibits foreigners from entering Indonesia, with few exceptions. Only foreigners holding diplomatic visas, official visiting service visas of foreign officials at ministerial level and above, diplomatic residence permits, official residence permits, limited stay permit cards (KITAS), or permanent residence permit cards (KITAP) can enter the country.
"But we are evaluating the regulation because we are trying to vaccinate 1.8 million to 2 million people by next month," the Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said in a statement on Friday.
"From April to May, we can add 1 million people so that in July, we hope to achieve herd immunity. Then Bali becomes a green zone," Luhut said.
Bali Governor Wayan Koster asked for the central government's support so that the vaccination program would continue.
"We hope that there will be 2.5 million out of Bali's 4.5 million population already vaccinated by July. So that month we can receive foreign tourist visits," Wayan said.
Bali has prepared three green zones, namely Ubud, Nusa Dua, and Sanur, for vaccination in April and get them ready to welcome receive foreign tourists in July.
Bali was struck by the Covid-19 pandemic that devastated its tourism-based economy. The province's economic output dropped by 9.3 percent last year, worse than any other province in Indonesia. In comparison, Indonesia's economy shrank by 2 percent last year.
The island province, which typically accounts for 40 to 50 percent of Indonesia's annual foreign tourists' visits numbers, was one of the worst-hit by the pandemic in terms of the total number of cases. Bali reported 145 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, bringing the total to 39,006 cases since Bali reported its first case report on March 22, 2020. Nationally, Bali ranks seventh highest in terms of the total number of cases.
Bali sees a downward trend in the number of new cases in the past month. The average seven-day daily new cases in Bali was at 179 on Saturday, 37 lower than the 285 cases 30 days ago. In the past 30 days, Bali successfully detected 5,555 new cases, 39 percent lower than the accumulation of cases in the previous 30-day period of 9,155 cases.
Learning from the impact of this pandemic, the government sought to diversify the island's economy so that Bali would be more resilient to shocks.
"We are preparing short-term and not medium-term policies to develop the Balinese economy from the creative industry sector, higher education, renewable energy, agriculture, and health tourism," Luhut said.
The government also plans to grant five-year visas for foreigners to encourage long-term stay on the island.
"After we conduct a study, we will implement this policy soon so that it can encourage the growth of the tourism sector. For example, one can do remote work from Bali," Luhut said.Dodi Budi Waluyo, a deputy governor of Bank Indonesia, the country's central bank, said that the tourism sector could improve in 2021, banking on the vaccines' vaccines' fast roll-out.
"We see this because of the vaccinations that we have been doing currently. Countries with vaccinations will recover faster," he said.