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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: Batam to ban residents traveling to Singapore amid new border policy

  • Fadli

    The Jakarta Post

Batam   /   Tue, March 17, 2020   /   09:30 pm
COVID-19: Batam to ban residents traveling to Singapore amid new border policy Ferries at Sekupang International Ferry Port, Batam, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (JP/Fadli)

In response to Singapore’s new border restrictions on Indonesian passport holders, the administration of Batam in Riau Islands is asking its residents not to visit the neighboring country temporarily to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

“We will issue a circular suggesting that residents do not travel abroad, especially to Singapore, for the next two weeks,” deputy Batam mayor Amsakar said in a press briefing on Monday.

He added that he had been coordinating with the Singaporean consul general in Batam regarding the new travel restrictions.

The deputy mayor went on to say that the new policy did not completely rule out Indonesian passport holders visiting the country. However, Indonesians would need to be prepared to spend a lot of time in Singapore as they would be quarantined for two weeks upon entering the country.

Singaporean authorities implemented new border restrictions on Monday, requiring people entering the country with a recent travel history to countries heavily affected by the coronavirus – including Indonesia – within the last 14 days to receive a 14-day Stay-Home Notice. The regulation will not apply to Singaporeans and Malaysians using sea and land crossings with Malaysian services.

Read also: Singapore donates medical equipment to Batam in mutual effort to combat COVID-19

“Singapore understands that some Indonesians go to the country to seek medical treatment. However, we don’t want Indonesians to have to stay there too long because of the quarantine policy,” Amsakar said.

He added that the local administration was technically unable to restrict Singaporeans from entering Batam, because the health-detection procedure for foreigners had been carried out by the Port Health Office (KKP), which is directly under the authority of the Health Ministry.

“Singaporeans will be strictly checked, although we hear that Singapore has prevented its citizens from leaving [the country] as well,” Amsakar said.

Hundreds of Batam residents were seen crowding the Batam Center International Ferry Port on Monday ahead of the policy implementation. Indonesian passport holders with temporary stay permits, student passes or permanent resident cards were still allowed to buy Batam-Singapore tickets.

Acting Riau Islands governor Isdianto said he would carry out further discussions with relevant parties on the impacts of the restriction policy on economic activities in the city.

Asmadi, the chairman of the Batam branch of the Indonesian National Shipowners Association (INSA), said he was surprised by the latest restriction policy and predicted it would hit ferry operators hard. He said the number of passengers on ferries serving the Batam-Singapore route had declined significantly as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Read also: In Singapore’s neighbor Batam, malls empty, ferry trips reduced as virus fears lurk

“The policy certainly makes it more complicated for Indonesian people to go to Singapore than before,” said Asmadi. “We don’t know what it will look like in the next few days.”

According to the Batam Investment Board (BPM), around 2,700 foreigners, mostly from Singapore and India, are employed by at least 400 companies in the city.

Batam Immigration Office recorded in 2018 around 3.3 million passengers entering the city through five international ferry ports, namely Batam Center, Citra Tritunas or Harbor Bay, Sekupang, Marina and Nongsa Point Marina. Of these 1 million were Singaporeans, while 1.6 million were Indonesians. (syk)