Jakarta (ANTARA) - The COVID-19 pandemic has dragged Indonesia into serious public health and economic crises, like many other countries in the world.

Tourism has been the worst affected by the impact of the pandemic, and the tourism industry of Bali, one of the world's most famous tourist resorts, has been especially hit hard by COVID-19.

Since the country recorded its first confirmed cases on March 2, 2020, the Indonesian government has been determined to win the battle against COVID-19. From January 13 this year, the government has rolled out a nationwide vaccination program to arrest the spread of infections.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) reviewed the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Gianyar and Denpasar, Bali province on March 16, 2021, and said he was optimistic that bringing the coronavirus infection under control would help revive the island's tourism industry around the middle of this year.

Accompanied by Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Tourism and Creative Economic Minister Sandiaga Uno, and Bali Governor Wayan Koster, Widodo held dialogs with Balinese religious and community leaders as well as frontline public servants to ensure that the vaccination program is implemented properly and successfully as it is key for the revival of tourism.

The Balinese people must remain optimistic, as "hope is on the way”, he said. The economy in Bali is expected to recover soon amid the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination program, he added.

He also spoke of the reopening of three COVID-19 green zones in Bali for tourism amid a marked decrease in the number of daily coronavirus cases nationwide.

"I see that in the province of Bali, we want to concentrate on three designated green zones, specifically Ubud, Sanur, and Nusa Dua. We are optimistic of these becoming green zones, green areas that we can fully open to tourists," he remarked.

The Bali authorities have so far administered COVID-19 vaccines to tourist industry players, religious leaders, and cultural and youth representatives, among others, the President noted.

"Hence, later, they (tourists) will feel safe and comfortable staying in Bali. With our focus on these three zones, revival of the tourism sector in Bali province will start," he added.

In addition to the vaccination program, a strict and disciplined implementation of health protocols is a must in Bali, according to Minister Uno.

Earlier, in February this year, Uno had met with the Bali Governor to highlight the importance of vaccinating 1.2 million tourism-related workers in Bali to boost public trust in the resort island.

"We pray for Bali's immediate recovery. If the tourism sector revives, the economy will get back on track. Speaking of Indonesia's tourism, it will never be separated from Bali," he remarked.

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Uno, during an online dialog on ‘Vaccination Comes, Tourism Shines’ on March 1 this year, unveiled a plan to reopen Bali and other destinations for tourists through the Free COVID Corridor Program.

The government is making sure to exercise caution as it examines the possibility of reopening green zones, or areas with the lowest risk of COVID-19 transmission, he said.

The plan for the designation of green zones in Bali includes Nusa Dua and Ubud, and can be expanded to cover Nusa Penida and several other areas to align with the local government's directives, he stated.

"We want to get more ready in line with the downward trend of COVID-19 cases, particularly in Bali. We are mulling over reopening green zones for tourists from several countries, such as China, Singapore, and other countries," he revealed.

The minister spoke of having invited several ambassadors to personally bear witness to the government's preparedness to open tourist destinations in Bali and other regions.

However, Uno noted that the plan to reopen the tourist destinations will hinge largely on endeavors to handle the COVID-19 pandemic in Bali.

Tourism industry players have lauded the government’s plan to reopen Bali island to international tourists by the middle of this year, offering a much-needed lifeline to beleaguered tourism businesses and operators.

"We are very delighted with the move signaled by President Joko Widodo to open Bali in June or July this year. We have been waiting for a year and it has not been in vain," AB Sadewa, corporate secretary of PT Destinasi Tirta Nusantara, said.

He was optimistic that opening Bali to foreign tourists could be a turning point for tourism recovery in Indonesia in general and help move the local economy, such as hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops, and ensure health protocol readiness, or CHSE (Cleanliness, Health, Safety, Environment), as per the standards set by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy.

Besides, to maintain tourism sustainability, he hoped the government would roll out stimulus or incentives, especially for tourist agencies to help them restart operations that have been halted for over a year. Such stimulus measures, he said, can be in the form of a soft loan for capital, marketing cost incentives, relaxation for foreign tourists who come to Indonesia, and tourism grants.

He also hoped for prompt allotment of vaccine passports for foreign tourists who have received their shots, in order to reduce the risk of transmission. This will certainly encourage travelers who want to vacation in Indonesia as well as boost the level of acceptance of foreign tourists by the Indonesian people, he added.

The government has held COVID-19 vaccination campaigns simultaneously in Sanur, Ubud, and Nusa Dua, starting March 22, 2021.

The central government has supported the supply of vaccines in accordance with the requirement of 170,487 doses, divided over three regions. At least 47,045 doses have been given to the Ubud region, 87,715 to Nusa Dua, and 35,727 doses to the Sanur region.
Related news: 750 taxi drivers in Bali get drive-thru vaccination service

Related news: Bali Governor: Secured 700 thousand doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Bali Governor Wayan Koster said he has secured 700 thousand doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which can be used for inoculating 350 thousand residents in the province.

Governor Koster said at least 70 percent of Bali's total population, or three million residents, need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity in the province.

"Thus, we need about six million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to help us create herd immunity. This is what we are requesting from the central government," he informed.

As of March 28, 2021, at least 5,296 tourism workers in Nusa Dua, or over 60 percent of the total target of 8,671 people, have been vaccinated.

"Thanks to the comprehensive vaccination program, and the certificates of Cleanliness, Health, Safety and Environmental Sustainability (CHSE) obtained by the tenants, we are upbeat that Nusa Dua will become a green zone of COVID-19-free tourist destination, which will make tourists feel safe and comfortable," president director of the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), Abdulbar M. Mansoer, said.

In Sanur, the authorities are targeting to vaccinate 35 thousand individuals, including eight thousand hotel staff. Vaccinations are being conducted on the basis of hamlets, and are being carried out with the involvement of all universities and private hospitals, according to Mayor of Denpasar, IGN Jaya Negara.

In fact, the government intends to develop the Sanur region in Bali province as a Special Economic Zone (KEK) focused on health tourism, with prime focus on senior citizens, according to State Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir.

"It will be different as compared to other areas in Bali. We want to attract tourists, especially the elderly," the minister noted at the MNC Group Investor Forum 2021.

In addition to attracting elderly tourists, the development of health tourism in Sanur is also expected to help reduce the number of Indonesians traveling overseas to seek medical treatment, he added. (INE)

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Editor: Yuni Arisandy Sinaga
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