DENPASAR, Indonesia -- Direct international flights to Bali have resumed for the first time in two years as Indonesia opens the resort island to foreign travelers from all countries, but mandatory quarantine remains in place for all visitors.
Officials had said in October that Bali would welcome foreign arrivals from 19 countries that meet World Health Organization criteria, such as having their COVID-19 cases under control. But there were no direct international flights to Bali until Thursday, when Garuda Indonesia operated its first such flight in two years from Tokyo.
Singapore Airlines will introduce a regular direct route to and from Denpasar in Bali starting Feb. 16, said Taufan Yudhistira, the public relations manager at Bali’s international airport.
Fully vaccinated travelers need to quarantine for five days in a hotel or on a liveaboard boat certified by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, and travelers who have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine must quarantine for seven days.
Indonesia reported 27,197 new coronavirus infections and 38 deaths on Thursday in the latest 24-hour period. The country has seen more than 4.4 million total cases since the pandemic began.
The country's latest surge in cases, driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant, has mostly been concentrated in Jakarta, but in recent days infections have “increased significantly” in Java and Bali, said Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister who leads the COVID-19 response in Java and Bali.
The quarantine for foreign arrivals is intended to prevent further spread of the virus, said Pandjaitan.
Before the pandemic, Bali’s airport accommodated more than 200 international flights with at least one million passengers per day in 2019. The island was closed to international flights after COVID-19 hit the world’s fourth most populous country in 2020.
Tourism is the main source of income in Bali, which is home to more than 4 million people who are mainly Hindu in the mostly Muslim archipelago nation. Bali’s tourist areas were deserted two decades ago after visitors were scared off by deadly terror attacks that targeted foreigners, but the island has worked to overcome that image.
The reopening of Bali to travelers from all countries will help boost the island's economy, which has been badly affected by the pandemic, Pandjaitan said.
The reopening will also serve as a “trial,” said Tourism and Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno, as the government prepares to host G-20 events in Bali later this year.
A G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in mid-February was supposed to be held in Bali but has been relocated to Jakarta because of the surge in COVID-19 cases. Some attendees will join the events virtually.
Associated Press writer Edna Tarigan in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.