A general view shows a near-empty beach in Kuta on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on March 22, 2020, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka)
Residents and businesses on the Indonesian island of Bali are hoping that news on the progress of experimental coronavirus vaccines will help them rebuild confidence in travel and lure tourists back to the struggling holiday hotspot.
Drugmaker Pfizer Inc said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90 percent effective based on trials, a major victory against a virus that has killed more than a million people and devastated the global economy.
Hotels and street markets around Bali's Legian beach have this week seen only a trickle of guests and no shortage of open water for surfers waiting to catch waves or paddling back out to sea.
"I hope that the vaccine findings are correct, we hope that tourism in Bali will quickly return to normal as before, and our economy will continue as before," said Arta, who runs a stall selling colorful clothes.
Bali last year had more than 10 million visitors, 6.3 million of whom were foreigners, the tourism agency said.
Indonesia has reported nearly 450,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 15,000 deaths, and travel curbs mean numbers will be considerably lower this year, even though tourism resumed in July in Bali.
"I'm sure it will give the world a lot of confidence to travel again. Hopefully sometime by the middle of next year, when it can be distributed to everyone," Australian Craig McKenzie said of the Pfizer vaccine.
The Pfizer news was a watershed moment that could help turn the tide of the pandemic. However, mass roll-outs, which need regulatory approval, will not happen this year.
Russia on Wednesday said its Sputnik V vaccine was 92 percent effective at protecting people from COVID-19 and said it had signed production and supply deals with 10 countries.
South African tourist Jane Nilsson remained skeptical, however.
"Any vaccine is questionable... Most people know pharmaceutical companies are in it for the money," said Nilsson, who said she had caught the coronavirus earlier this year.
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