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Jakarta Post

Indonesia to offer exemptions from temporary ban on foreigners

  • Dzulfiqar Fathur Rahman

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, April 1, 2020   /   04:51 pm
Indonesia to offer exemptions from temporary ban on foreigners Passengers of Chinese Eastern airline heading for Shanghai China wait for boarding at Terminal 3 of Soekarno Hatta Airport, Tangerang, Banten, on Feb. 5. (Antara/Muhammad Iqbal )

The government will provide exemptions to the temporary ban on foreign arrivals and transits, set to come into operation on midnight Thursday, aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

The temporary ban, expected to last until the government declares an end to the pandemic, will exempt diplomatic officials, medical and food supplies, as well as land, air and sea transportation crews, according to the recently issued Law and Human Rights Ministerial Regulation No. 11/2020.

The government will also exempt foreigners with both limited and permanent residence permits, and allow tourists whose visitor’s visas have expired to stay in the country without having to apply for an extension at an immigration office.

The Law and Human Rights Ministry’s acting director general, Jhoni Ginting, said the government would “actually extend all visitors’ visas in an emergency measure” as they might not be able to return home, while some countries were suspending travel and some airlines had temporarily stopped operating.

“[The exemptions] are also in place for health workers and [transportation crews] that ship goods such as donated face masks […] and airline crews tasked with picking up their fellow citizens,” Jhoni told The Jakarta Post in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Indonesia has joined the list of countries introducing such temporary bans as confirmed cases of COVID-19 rise to 851,000 with over 42,000 dead worldwide according to Reuters as of Wednesday midday.

COVID-19, a respiratory illness first discovered last December in Wuhan city in Hubei province in China, has infected 1,528 people in Indonesia, second only to Thailand in Southeast Asia.

Of the country’s confirmed cases, 136 people have died of the contagious disease while 81 patients have recovered.

Indonesia is offering the exemptions not only to facilitate humanitarian assistance between countries in handling the pandemic, but also to continue developing its national strategic projects that employ foreign workers.

Jhoni said the exemption for the workers was “related to the completion of the project development.”

By the end of this year, the government is planning to complete the development of 143 projects covering at least 15 sectors including energy, technology, agriculture and infrastructure, according to the Committee for the Acceleration of Priority Infrastructure Delivery (KPPIP).

The government completed 81 development projects with a total investment of Rp 390 trillion (US$23.4 billion) between 2016 and August 2019.

“We are giving an automatic extension if necessary for those working in the national strategic program if they cannot get back to their countries,” said Jhoni.

As a precautionary measure against the fast-spreading virus, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the exemptions would ensure safety by complying with the relevant protocols related to COVID-19 handling.

The government, therefore, requires exempted foreigners to have a letter declaring they are healthy, stay in regions without COVID-19 cases for at least 14 days and agree to a 14-day quarantine measure.

“There are exemptions, but in general all foreigners’ visits and transits to Indonesia will be temporarily suspended,” Retno said in an online press briefing on Monday. “The President has decided that the current policies must be strengthened.”

The Law and Human Rights Minister issued in March a ministerial decree temporarily stopping free visitor visas and visas on arrival.

Indonesia recorded around 2.1 million foreign tourists in January and February, a decline of 11.80 percent from the same period last year, according to data released on Wednesday by Statistics Indonesia (BPS).

Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, the country’s primary airport, booked a year-on-year decline of 33.21 percent in foreign arrivals in February.