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Jakarta Post

'Treat them politely': Indonesia still welcomes visitors from China amid virus outbreak

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, January 27, 2020   /   08:25 pm
'Treat them politely': Indonesia still welcomes visitors from China amid virus outbreak Pedestrians wearing protective masks to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, walk on a street in Tokyo's Ginza area on January 26, 2020. - Japan's health authorities on January 26 confirmed the country's fourth case of the coronavirus which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (AFP/Charly Triballeau)

Despite concerns about possible human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus, the government has said that the country is still open to visitors from China and that there are as yet no plans to restrict travel from the entire country.

Tourism Minister Wishnutama Kusbandio said on Monday that there were no plans to bar Chinese tourists from entering Indonesia, with the exception of those coming from Wuhan and the province of Hubei, where the fast-spreading virus was first identified.

“No countries have banned [Chinese tourists], so why should we ban them? We [need only] to increase alertness," Wishnutama said, "However, those from Hubei province and the city of Wuhan are banned, so take note of that."

He went on to say that the Foreign Ministry had issued a travel warning for Indonesians visiting China, with yellow status, or alert, for those traveling to cities or regencies in China with the exception of Wuhan or Hubei, which have red status, meaning travel there is prohibited.

Wishnutama continued that the outbreak -- which had affected more than 2,000 people in four continents as of Monday -- had yet to make any impact on Indonesian tourism.

“There has been no impact yet. The number [of Chinese tourists] is still normal and compared with last year, this month’s numbers are even higher," he said, adding that the details of the number of tourists would be provided soon by the ministry.

Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data shows that from January to November last year, Indonesia welcomed 14.92 million international tourists, of whom 1.92 million, 12.87 percent, were from China.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said that Indonesian airlines had only suspended flights to and from Wuhan, while routes connecting the archipelago to other cities in China were still operating.

“Because other countries still welcome them [Chinese tourists], we must welcome and treat them politely too,” Budi said.

Direct flights to and from Wuhan to Indonesia, operated by Indonesian airlines Lion Air and Sriwijaya Air from Denpasar, Bali, have been stopped since Friday in response to the coronavirus outbreak and Wuhan lockdown.

The president director of airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I, Faik Fahmi, said that the operator had cooperated with local port health offices (KKP) to make sure tourists from China entering Indonesia were healthy.

“If any passengers fall sick, we immediately cooperate with the Immigration Office. We make sure that their body temperature remains below 38 degrees and during checkups our officers wear face masks,” Faik said.

Meanwhile, PT Angkasa Pura II said that among its 19 airports, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport in East Jakarta and Kualanamu International Airport in Medan, North Sumatra, had become their main focus.

Angkasa Pura II president director Muhammad Awaluddin said that although Soekarno-Hatta had at least 31 flights to China daily, there were no direct flights to Wuhan.

Awaluddin said that the operators had installed thermal scanners in all 19 airports to monitor passengers.

As of Monday, the coronavirus, which bears similarities to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), had killed 80 in China since it was first identified in Wuhan on Dec. 31, 2019, AFP reported. Indonesia has no confirmed cases so far. (dfr/mfp/ami)