Hundreds of Australian nationals categorized as "vulnerable" left Bali this afternoon on a chartered flight organized by their government, officials have confirmed.
"This flight has been arranged to enable vulnerable Australians, whose flights have been canceled or where transit options are no longer available, to return to Australia," Australian Consul-General, Anthea Griffin, said in a statement.
Taufan Yudhistira, a spokesman from airport management firm PT Angkasa Pura I, confirmed to reporters earlier this afternoon that some 180 Australian nationals were scheduled to board a Qantas Airways flight at 3pm.
Late last month, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) opened up online registration for Australians looking to leave Indonesia, which reportedly saw almost 800 sign-ups. However, only those deemed most vulnerable for health, financial, or visa reasons managed to secure seats on today's flight.
Passengers are reportedly expected to pay the cost of their one-way flight to Australia, priced below AU$1,000 (US$726.40). This fee is said to be comparably cheaper than the cost of flying to Australia from Indonesia commercially.
It is not yet clear if the Australian government plans on arranging any more repatriation flights from Indonesia for hundreds of Australians who signed up to leave the country. Many have reportedly gone to great lengths to go home, including by chartering private flights at hefty prices or arranging to sail down under.
Indonesia has become Asia's epicenter for COVID-19, following a significant surge in infections driven by the Delta variant. Though infections have started to plateau in Java island, other parts of the country are still recording relatively high numbers.
In Bali, new infections have averaged around 1,000 for several weeks, though the numbers are seeing a decline in recent days. As of today, 10,720 people are in treatment for COVID-19.