Direct international flights to Bali have resumed for the first time in two years as Indonesia opens the resort island to foreign travelers from all countries, but mandatory quarantine remains in place for all visitors
Officials had said in October that Bali would welcome foreign arrivals from 19 countries that meet World Health Organization criteria, such as having their COVID-19 cases under control. But there were no direct international flights to Bali until Thursday, when Garuda Indonesia operated its first such flight in two years from Tokyo.
Singapore Airlines will introduce a regular direct service to and from Denpasar in Bali from February 16, said Taufan Yudhistira, public relations manager at Bali International Airport.
Fully vaccinated travelers must self-quarantine for five days in a hotel or on a cruise ship certified by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, and travelers who have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine must quarantined for seven days.
Indonesia reported 27,197 new coronavirus infections and 38 deaths on Thursday in the last 24-hour period. The country has recorded more than 4.4 million total cases since the start of the pandemic.
The latest outbreak in the country, caused by the highly transmissible variant of omicron, was mainly concentrated in Jakarta, but in recent days infections have “significantly increased” in Java and Bali, the minister said in charge of coordinating maritime affairs and investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister leading the COVID-19 response in Java and Bali.
The quarantine for foreign arrivals aims to prevent further spread of the virus, Pandjaitan said.
Before the pandemic, Bali’s airport handled over 200 international flights with at least one million passengers daily in 2019. The island was closed to international flights after COVID-19 hit the fourth most populous country of the world in 2020.
Tourism is the main source of income in Bali, which is home to more than 4 million mainly Hindu people in the predominantly Muslim archipelago. Bali’s tourist areas were deserted two decades ago after visitors were scared off by deadly terrorist attacks that targeted foreigners, but the island has worked to overcome this image.
Reopening Bali to travelers from all countries will help boost the island’s economy, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, Pandjaitan said.
The reopening will also serve as a “trial”, Tourism and Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said as the government prepares to host the G-20 events in Bali later this year.
A G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in mid-February was scheduled to be held in Bali but was moved to Jakarta due to rising COVID-19 cases. Some attendees will join the events virtually.
Associated Press writer Edna Tarigan in Jakarta, Indonesia contributed to this report.