JAKARTA – Indonesia is closing its borders to foreign travellers from all around the world for the first two weeks of 2021, amid concerns over the discovery of a more infectious Covid-19 variant detected in the United Kingdom.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi announced this on Monday, reported the Jakarta Post.
The government has begun denying entry to foreign nationals from the UK since last week, as stipulated in an addendum to Circular No 3/2020 on travel health protocols for the Christmas and New Year holidays during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last week, scientists from the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group discovered a new strain of the virus, which has been spreading rapidly in Britain, according to news reports.
The B117 lineage may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original disease, but there has yet to be evidence that it causes severe illness or higher mortality.
It has since been found in several European nations, Canada, Japan, Australia and Singapore.
“In response to these developments, a limited cabinet meeting on Dec 28 came to the decision to temporarily bar the entry of foreign nationals from all countries to Indonesia from Jan 1 to 14, 2021,” Retno said.
Exceptions for foreigners due to arrive prior to Thursday have been put in place based on the latest regulations set up by the national Covid-19 task force.
They must follow strict health protocols, including presenting negative results of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken at least 48 hours before departure to Indonesia, and uploaded them to the Indonesia Health Alert Card application.
Upon arrival, they are required to take a reverse-transcriptase PCR test conducted by the Indonesian authorities and be quarantined for five days at designated hotels if they test negative.
Foreign travellers must take another RT-PCR test after the quarantine period and will only be allowed to continue their journey if the results come back negative.
Retno said citizens returning from overseas were allowed entry but must follow the same rigorous procedures. The government will cover their expenses.
This is the second time Indonesia has decided to close its borders since the Covid-19 outbreak, as the nation continues to see a steady rise in positive cases nine months into the pandemic.
Indonesia has recorded more than 719,000 confirmed cases and upwards of 21,000 deaths from the disease up to Monday.
The high rate of those who tested positive and a low testing capacity indicate that the true scale of the crisis could be much bigger.
A more infectious strain of Covid-19 could prove catastrophic if adequate measures are not introduced. With the travel curbs in place, Retno said, only high-level official visits may be granted exceptions.
“Official visits at the ministerial level and above will be exempted from this temporary with very strict health protocols,”