JAKARTA—Indonesia has eased its COVID-19 restrictions on the popular tourist island of Bali, although international travelers will face stricter protocols on arrival to help curb the spread of new variants, a senior minister said on Monday.
Tourist spots in most parts of the island will now accept visitors, maritime and investment minister Luhut Panjaitan told a virtual conference, as long as they adhere to strict protocols, such as proving their vaccination status on a government-verified phone app.
"The rapidly improving COVID-19 situation in Java and Bali has caused the PPKM level to decline faster than we expected," Panjaitan told the conference, referring to Indonesia's system of social mobility restrictions.
The level of social mobility restrictions in Bali will be evaluated weekly.
International visitors, however, must undergo an eight-day quarantine and take three PCR tests before they enter the island.
"Firm action" would be taken against those who flout the restrictions, Panjaitan said, but he did not say what those penalties would include.
Later at the conference, Indonesia's health minister, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, said that borders to the country would be tightened.
"The government has decided to strengthen the country's entry points, by equipping and tightening the quarantine process at sea, land and air," Sadikin said, adding that Indonesia would strengthen the use of genome sequencing to quickly identify new variants of the coronavirus.
Plans to reopen Bali to foreign tourists earlier this year were scrapped when the country was overwhelmed by a devastating second wave driven by the highly infectious Delta variant, first identified in India.
Indonesia has suffered from one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus across Asia, with more than 4 million cases and 138,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
After peaking at more than 56,000 cases on July 15, the number of COVID-19 cases reported daily has dropped significantly in the past month. The country recorded less than 3,000 cases on Monday. (Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alex Richardson)