JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – Indonesia is taking the first steps to reopen its borders, after Jakarta curtailed travel to and from other countries during the coronavirus pandemic.
The measures include setting up a travel bubble, in which countries that managed to contain the Covid-19 outbreaks opened their borders to allow travel and free movement within the corridor.
“We will establish the travel bubble with China, South Korea, Japan and Australia,” said the Cooordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Ministry’s Undersecretary for Tourism and Creative Economy Odo R.M Manuhutu in a virtual press conference last Friday (12/6/2020).
Prioritizing leading economic partners
“These countries have been chosen [for the travel bubble] because of their substantial investments and tourist numbers in Indonesia. While we will start with business travelers, we hope to gradually extend it to tourists” said Odo.
“The bubble will change how tourists travel” he said. “They might include direct flights to Indonesia, such as from Seoul to Jakarta or Bali, or Osaka to Bali. This will avoid transits, especially lengthy transits, which leave open the possibility of [Covid-19] transmission.”
Sorting out the kinks
Odo added that the government is still discussing criteria for the corridor and ensure that the conditions can be agreed with other countries, before they can strike any deals.
“The bubble will come into effect two to four weeks after they are signed into agreement. Even then, certain aspects such as health, security and technical preparations need to be taken into consideration” he noted.
“We hope we can learn pros and cons of opening travel bubbles with these first four countries, before we can apply it to other nations” he said.
Statistics Indonesia noted that China and Australia led the way in foreign tourist numbers in 2019, with 2.072.079 and 1.386.803 respectively. Japan is third with 519.623, while 388.316 South Koreans visited Indonesia last year.
A one way deal
However, Japan has named Indonesia as one of 111 countries, along with the United States, the entire European Union, and most Asian nations, whose nationals are still barred entry.
The Kyodo News said Tokyo is only considering loosening criteria for the nationals of Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam to enter the country, due to their success in reducing Covid-19 cases.
A number of countries have started experimenting with travel bubbles after imposing lockdowns and other strictures during the coronavirus pandemic. They include countries in the same region such as Australia and New Zealand, and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. (Writer: Nabilla Ramadhian/Editors: Kahfi Dirga Cahya/Ni Luh Made Pertiwi F.