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Be aware, Bali Still Has the Most COVID-19 ‘Red Zones’ in Indonesia

No matter how hard you try, there’s no escaping the doom and gloom of the global Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic – even here in sunny Bali. But there are ways to avoid getting sick, and more importantly, ways to reduce the spread of the virus. If you’re currently in Indonesia or have an upcoming holiday planned to Bali, you’re no doubt wondering, “is Bali safe”, or “are the borders open in Indonesia?“.

Well, the simple answer is that Bali is still safe for those who are fit, healthy and following correct hygiene and social distancing procedures. But to help minimise the spread of the virus, you should consider rescheduling any upcoming trips until the pandemic is under control. Furthermore, Indonesia has suspended all “Visas on Arrival”, and visitors are currently not allowed to enter for tourism purposes. All domestic air travel within Indonesia requires a negative PCR test, while a Rapid Antigen is required for sea and land travel. As of 3rd July 2021, international travellers arriving in Indonesia must show proof of complete vaccination, while domestic travellers must show proof of at least the 1st vaccination.

To give you a better idea of the current Covid-19 situation in both Bali & Indonesia, here we dive into what the virus means for visitors to Indonesia (including expats and holidaymakers who are still here), and the necessary precautions and preventive measures to take when travelling to Bali.

Indonesia has announced a lockdown on its main island Java, as well as the tourism destination of Bali. The announcement by President Joko Widodo comes as the country battles multiple outbreaks and an alarming spike in Covid cases. Indonesia recently recorded two million Covid cases, attributed to increased holiday travel and the Delta variant.

The lockdown will last two weeks and aims to reduce the number of cases to below 10,000 a day. The country is currently recording more than 20,000 new cases each day. However, experts warn that the case numbers are potentially much higher, because of severely inadequate testing outside Jakarta.

Indonesia has had the worst Covid outbreak in South East Asia, with about 2.1 million positive cases and 57,000 deaths so far. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Tuesday that the country was “teetering on the edge of a Covid-19 catastrophe”.

Sudirman Said, secretary-general of the Indonesian Red Cross said “hospitals were full to the brim and oxygen supplies critically low”, and that their hospital in Bogor, West Java, was “overflowing”. “We have set up emergency tents at the hospital to accommodate more patients, with many travelling for hours so they can access vital medical care,” he said. Last month, authorities banned domestic travel across the sprawling archipelago at the end of Ramadan, in an attempt to curb what is known as “mudik” – the practice of migrant workers travelling back to their hometowns to celebrate Eid with their families. But many flouted the rules.

There have also been rising concerns that the spike in cases is due to the more transmissible Delta variant, which was first detected in late May in the Kudus region of Java. Local authorities said this month that more than 350 health workers who were already vaccinated had caught Covid. The Indonesian Medical Association has said so far 949 health workers have died from Covid-19. Data checks by BBC Indonesian found that of these deaths, at least 20 doctors and 10 nurses had been fully vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine, CoronaVac.

Indonesia has mainly relied on the Chinese vaccine in its inoculation drive, which is ramping up this week. Only about 13 million people out of its 270 million population have been fully vaccinated so far. Several epidemiologists told BBC Indonesian that they believed a third booster dose may be needed for health workers, given the presence of the Delta variant as well as the efficacy of CoronaVac, which measured 65% in Indonesian trials earlier this year.

A more recent government study however found that it was 98% effective in preventing death and 96% effective in preventing hospitalisation among medical workers.

The outbreaks have concerned many citizens, such as 40-year-old Malika who lives in the capital Jakarta. She told BBC Indonesian she does not permit her child to leave the house.

“I’m very worried, especially now. I heard that there are so many children infected by Covid-19 in Jakarta,” she said. “In the past I didn’t give it too much thought … But now I couldn’t say such a thing.”

Bali currently has the most “red zone” regions across the country, data from Indonesia’s COVID-19 Task Force has revealed, even as coronavirus cases in the province have been gradually declining in recent weeks.

Six of Bali’s nine regions, namely Badung, Klungkung, Karangasem, Tabanan, Buleleng, and Denpasar city, are categorized as red zones this week, out of a total of 15 regions considered high-risk at the national level.

The province is still categorized as a Level 4 under Indonesia’s tiered Enforcement of Restrictions on Public Activities (PPKM) protocol, which carries the tightest set of restrictions.

Self-isolation among COVID-19 patients in Bali have been cited as a reason for the recent surge in coronavirus transmissions, which led to officials directing them to centered isolation centers spread across the province.

An official said yesterday that those centers have helped drive down the number of active COVID-19 cases in Bali, which currently stands at 6,371, after it topped 13,000 about a month ago.

Wherever you are in the world, it goes without saying that monitoring your health is essential – especially if you’ve recently travelled. Much like the flu, the virus can transfer via close contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It can also spread when you touch your mouth, nose or eyes after touching infected surfaces or objects, as well as by faecal contamination.

The symptoms of Coronavirus are similar to the flu, pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses. That includes a sore throat, cough, fever and even shortness of breath for severe cases. If you do feel unwell or experience any of these symptoms, then contact your doctor immediately. In Bali, it’s recommended to call 112 to speak to emergency services first, before visiting Sanglah Hospital.

Honestly? It’s relatively straightforward. Outbreak or not, observing basic personal hygiene is key and being socially responsible is pretty obvious. With a little initiative and awareness, we can kick Coronavirus in the butt and continue enjoying life in paradise… Let’s do this, people!