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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: West Nusa Tenggara closes Gili islands while denying lockdown rumors

  • Panca Nugraha

    The Jakarta Post

Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara   /   Tue, March 17, 2020   /   12:22 pm
COVID-19: West Nusa Tenggara closes Gili islands while denying lockdown rumors A tourist walks on the beach of the famous Gili Trawangan island off Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. (JP/Tarko Sudiarno)

The West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) administration has restricted access to its popular tourist destinations, the three Gili islands off Lombok, for 14 days over concerns of a nationwide COVID-19 outbreak.

The restriction was implemented as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded nationally topped 100, raising concerns over an escalated health crisis, particularly in popular destinations such as Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air, known for their pristine white sandy beaches and underwater scenery.

However, administration officials have denied that the province was in full lockdown mode, as tourists who wish to leave Gili Trawangan are still able to do so by boat.

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“We have received reports of tourists panicking and rushing to leave Gili Trawangan because of the prevalent misinformation about the restriction of all access to NTB. It’s untrue; there’s no lockdown,” NTB's Communications and Information Agency head, I Gede Putu Aryadi, said on Monday.

He reiterated that the administration had only agreed to temporarily restrict access to Gili Trawangan, particularly via speedboats from the neighboring resort island of Bali. Other points of entry, such as the Lombok International Airport in Central Lombok and Lembar Port in West Lombok, remain operational, he added.

“We restricted access to the Gili islands because Bali has reported positive COVID-19 cases. The restriction is specifically meant for speedboat arrivals from Bali. Boats are still allowed to depart from Gili, so tourists may leave without panicking,” he said.

Ahsanul Khalik, the head of the province’s COVID-19 relief task force, said his team had called on the North Lombok administration, as well as business owners on the Gili Islands, to provide accurate information regarding the current situation to prevent any panic among the public and tourists in the region.

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The task force, along with the health agency and other stakeholders, would disinfect a number of major public spaces on the Gilis during the 14-day restriction, Ahsanul said.

“Tourists who are visiting Gili should continue enjoying their trip without having to panic. There’s no need to leave Lombok; we only restricted access for 14 days,” he said.

Indonesia has announced 17 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 134 with five fatalities as of Monday afternoon. (rfa)