Bali Dips Into Second Covid-19 Lockdown And More Misery Just As Reopening Was Close To Hand, SE Asia News & Top Stories
DENPASAR, INDONESIA – Before Bali entered its second lockdown this month, Ms Diaz, 32, a floor manager at Watercress Cafe, was on her way to fend for herself.
On a normal day last month, his restaurant, located on the main thoroughfare between Canggu and Seminyak, recorded sales to a largely foreign clientele of around 140 people who were dining there or having food delivered.
And while that volume was a fraction of what the bistro would normally do at this time of year, the revenues were enough to schedule 20-30 employees. But on a recent weekday, it only had nine in service, and the frustration of 15 months of intermittent shutdowns was starting to show.
“It’s so depressing,” Ms Diaz, who would only give her nickname, told the Straits Times. “Things were just starting to improve.”
Thanks to an ambitious vaccination program, where around 70% of the island’s adults have been at least partially vaccinated against Covid-19, Bali appeared to be on the path to reopening.
A slight increase in domestic tourism and initiatives to work from the holiday island had resulted in a modest but steady recovery from the dark days of the same time last year.
On the last Friday of June, the island recorded more than 60 aircraft arrivals compared to just four in the same period a year earlier, according to airport data.
An audit of resorts in Seminyak and Uluwatu found that occupancy rates in some cases averaged around 75% in June. The island’s average occupancy was 20% in June, according to the Bali Hotel Association.
As recently as last month, Indonesia’s Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said plans to accommodate small groups of foreign vacationers at designated locations were nearing completion. Plans were even in the works to offer a “vaccination tourism program” where foreign tourists could obtain doses of the Covid-19 vaccine – for a fee – during their stay.
But since the July 2 lockdown, which spread to almost the entire country on Wednesday, July 7 as new cases and deaths rose, occupancy has largely halved at those same hotels as travelers have rushed in. to get return flights.
The number of new cases in Indonesia exceeded 31,000 on Tuesday. Authorities have warned that daily cases could reach 50,000. At 728, the death toll from Covid-19 on Tuesday is seven times higher than a month ago.
“It is a very difficult time for everyone,” said Mr. Ricky Putra, general manager of the Six Senses complex in Uluwatu, where the occupancy rate has fallen by more than half to 10 percent this week.
“We support the government’s action. We certainly hope the vaccination rate will increase so that we can reopen.”
Mr Sandiaga told reporters on Monday that plans to reopen to foreign tourism “continue”, but the decision to proceed will depend on removing local daily cases below 100, with around 70% to 80% of the roughly 4 million inhabitants of the island. fully vaccinated.
“Work activity from Bali, vaccine tourism in Bali, has been temporarily postponed,” Sandiaga said during a Zoom press briefing.
At stake is the prospect of reviving billions of dollars in tourism. In 2019, the island garnered US $ 18 billion (S $ 24.2 billion) in spending, including US $ 8 billion from foreign visitors who tend to stay longer and spend more than Indonesians.
Frustration boils over suspicion that the surge in cases in Indonesia followed lackluster efforts to curb the annual exodus from Indonesian cities to villages of origin, and then again at the end of the post-Ramadan Idul Fitri holiday.
“Most people here think the government could have done more to stop the movement during Idul Fitri,” said Blake Johnson, founder of the popular Coffee Cartel cafes in Seminyak and Canggu.
On an ordinary day before the pandemic, the café could accommodate 400 people a day. Now he barely covers wages with take out orders.
“They didn’t stop people from moving around during Idul Fitri. Now we are all suffering,” Mr. Blake said.
At Devira Massage, Ms Wayan Sumiati, 43, who has rented the thatched-roof spa behind Watercress for 15 years, is unsure how her family will be able to afford the fees the owner will demand when renewing her contract within three month.
Before the pandemic hit, she had a list of a dozen therapists caring for around 15 to 20 clients a day. Now there is only one therapist and the spa can last up to four days without a client.
“I pray to God that there are more tourists,” she said.
On a once bustling Seminyak street, Mr. Gede Prima, 45, records a video of near-desolation for a documentary he is preparing with his friends.
A tattoo artist with a vast Australian clientele, Mr. Gede has a map of Indonesia inked on his neck and throat and the word “hopeless” inscribed on his knuckles.
Although this latest tattoo predates the pandemic, Mr Gede says his situation is dire nonetheless. Since her tattoo parlor has been closed for a long time, some clients send her money.
“If it weren’t for my Australian customers, I would lose my house,” Gede told ST.
“I just want Covid to end so I can get my Australians back.”