Int'l travel rules in Indonesia tightened amid concerns over Omicron variant

Source: Xinhua| 2021-12-03 22:13:33|Editor: huaxia

by Dames Alexander Sinaga

JAKARTA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Due to the rise in the new Omicron coronavirus variant in certain countries, the Indonesian government has imposed stricter measures by extending its mandatory quarantine period for all international travelers arriving in the country to 10 days from seven days.

Effective Friday, the longer quarantine period was instructed by President Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi.

Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said recently that the government will evaluate the policy periodically while continuing to gather more information about the new variant.

The Omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa last week.

So far, several European countries, as well as countries and regions including Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Israel and China's Hong Kong, have confirmed infections of the new variant.

The WHO has called the strain with a large number of mutations a "variant of concern," warning that it may be highly transmissible and pose an increased risk of reinfection to people who have previously been infected with COVID-19.

Pandjaitan, who is leading the Indonesian government's COVID-19 response on the islands of Java and Bali, has called on the public to avoid traveling overseas to keep the pandemic situation in the country under control.

All the government officials, he added, are also prohibited from traveling abroad with the exception of those who are assigned to important diplomatic missions.

At present, the Southeast Asian country is prohibiting the entry of foreigners who have been in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini, Malawi, Angola, Zambia and China's Hong Kong within two weeks before departing to Indonesia.

The prohibition excludes Indonesians returning from those countries, who are subjected to a 14-day quarantine.

To date, the government has not reported any cases of the Omicron variant in Indonesia, home to some 270 million people.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said that authorities are currently working on enhancing their COVID-19 surveillance to detect and contain the spread of Omicron at an early stage.

Meanwhile, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto, who chairs the COVID-19 Handling and National Economic Recovery Committee, has called on the authorities to accelerate the national vaccination program, targeting 70 percent of the country's total population by the end of this year, to anticipate new variants of the coronavirus.

The government aims to vaccinate 208.2 million people with vaccines from various pharmaceutical manufacturers of different countries.

Indonesia started mass COVID-19 vaccinations on Jan. 13 after the authorities approved the emergency use of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine.

So far, the country has administered over 240.79 million doses, including the third booster jabs. More than 141.50 million people in Indonesia have received their first doses of vaccines, while over 98.04 million have taken the second doses.

The government has also prohibited activities related to New Year's festivities, such as fireworks, parades and crowded events across the archipelago.

Places of worship in Indonesia, a country with the biggest number of Muslims in the world, currently operate at half capacity.

To discourage the public from traveling during the holiday seasons, the government will impose an odd-even license plate number policy on several major toll roads and tourism spots on Java, the most populous island in Indonesia. Enditem

KEY WORDS: Indonesia,COVID 19,Travel Restrictions,Roundup