Indonesia bans international visitors over new COVID-19 strain

JAKARTA (CNA) – International visitors will be barred from entering Indonesia for a two-week period in a bid to stem the spread of a new potentially more contagious strain of the coronavirus, its Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said yesterday.

The new regulation, effective January 1, comes days after Indonesia banned travellers from Britain and tightened rules for those arriving from Europe and Australia to limit the spread of the new strain.

Indonesia earlier this year banned all foreign tourists from entry but some exemptions have been made for business travellers.

The new regulation applies to all foreign visitors, except for high-level government officials or foreigners with residency permits, she said.

The world’s fourth most populous country has struggled to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus since recording its first case in March, now with 719,219 confirmed infections and 21,452 deaths, among the highest in Asia.

Passengers stand in line to have documents checked at a Soekarno Hatta Airport amid the coronavirus disease in Jakarta. PHOTO: CNA

It announced 5,854 new infections and 215 deaths yesterday, with the positivity rate above 20 per cent in recent days.

In recent weeks Indonesia’s healthcare system has come under strain with hospitals on Java island forced to add more beds as emergency wards near capacity.

Senior Health Ministry official Abdul Kadir yesterday said hospitals were in danger of becoming overwhelmed by a possible year-end holiday infections spike, with occupancy in the capital Jakarta already reaching 84 per cent.

In West Java, Indonesia’s most populated province, hospital occupancy is currently at 83 per cent, and in East Java, 77 per cent, he said.

“This means that these regions are in the red zone. The bed capacity is now in red zone. Any uptick will overwhelm hospitals,” he said, adding that 500 beds would be added in the greater Jakarta area.

A total of 589,978 patients have recovered from the disease, after 6,302 more people were added to the tally yesterday.