Bali boots Syrian yogi over coronavirus violations

GIANYAR (AFP) – A Syrian yogi will be kicked out of Bali for holding a crowded gathering that violated the Indonesian holiday island’s coronavirus restrictions, a justice official said on Wednesday.

House of Om, a holistic retreat in Bali’s cultural hub of Ubud, found itself in hot water after a video went viral showing at least 60 foreign yoga enthusiasts crammed together at a gathering last week.

Few of the cross-legged participants wore masks or kept a distance from each other, sparking widespread anger in Bali where coronavirus infections have been on the rise.

On Wednesday, the island’s immigration department said it would deport retreat co-founder Wissam Barakeh, 45, to his native Syria for breaking rules that prohibit gatherings of more than two dozen people.

“(He) didn’t try to cancel the event even after the number of participants exceeded what’s allowed by the government,” said Jamaruli Manihuruk, the head of Bali’s justice and legal office.

“Holding this during the pandemic is dangerous,” he added.

Barakeh, in Bali on a temporary visa, is now being held at an immigration centre until plans to return him to his war-torn homeland are sorted out, Manihuruk said.

The volume of flights to and from Bali has plummeted in the midst of the global pandemic, crippling the island’s key tourism sector. As of Tuesday, Bali has reported 1,158 confirmed coronavirus infections, with nine deaths.