[Updated at 11:54 a.m. on Oct 7, 2021, for a correction about quarantine requirement]
Jakarta. The Ministry of Transportation has removed the maximum limit of 90 international flight passengers through Soekarno Hatta Airport. Arriving passengers still need to carry out the mandatory eight-day isolation following their arrival.
Novie Riyanto, the director-general of civil aviation at the Ministry of Transportation, said that these decisions had been made as Soekarno Hatta Airport can finally increase its PCR test capacity, decreasing the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
"The Ministry of Transportation has made efforts to suppress the potential spread of Covid-19, including the entry of new variants through air transportation routes," Novie said on Tuesday.
"The restriction on international passengers was due to limitations on the number of PCR tests that can be carried out in the airports. With the increase in PCR capacity, we feel that the additional preventive measures are no longer needed," he said
Novie said the results of these PCR tests could be obtained within an hour. That reduces the potential for queues, and passengers may receive comfortable service during testing at the airport.
"The testing facility has been increased to reach a target of 600 people per hour and has complied with the requirements of the Bio Security Level II (BSL2) Lab," said Novie.
Despite the loosening of health regulations, he still asked involved parties to remain committed to implementing proper health protocols and practicing caution while at the airport.
While restrictions on passenger arrivals are no longer needed, strict health protocols and implementing quarantine for eight days in accordance with applicable regulations, Novie said.
The Ministry of Transportation was also considering the crises faced by the aviation sector when making this decision.
"We hope that the aviation sector will recover soon, and we hope that efforts in increasing Covid-19 testing and vaccinations both globally and domestically may assist in the recovery. These are expected to provide a better future for the aviation world while still preventing the spread of Covid-19 transmission and the entry of new variants," Novie said.
Only two airports are open to foreigners today, including Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Tangerang, Banten and Sam Ratulangi Airport in Manado, North Sulawesi.
However, the government is looking forward to welcoming more foreign visitors as the number of Covid-19 cases has subsided and its vaccination drive improved.
On Oct 14, the government plans to welcome foreign arrivals at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport, more than a year after it was closed due to the pandemic.
Indonesia saw just under 1,500 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, far below its over 50,000 cases when the pandemic peaked in July.
More than 95 million people in Indonesia have received at least one vaccine shot against the airborne disease, Health Ministry data showed. Over 90 percent of the Jakarta population has been fully vaccinated. The proportion was well over 70 percent in Bali.
Tourism Sector to Rebound
Property consultant Colliers International Indonesia expected the government's decision to ease access for foreign visitors would boost the country's tourism industry for the rest of this year.
"Based on several indicators, it appears that the end of 2021 could be a better period due to growth in the tourism industry," Ferry Salanto, head of research at Colliers International Indonesia, said in a statement.
The hotel occupation rate in Bali has increased to 20 percent in the past few weeks, as the island would remain the main attraction for foreign tourists.
Other tourist destinations such as Central Java or the Special Region of Yogyakarta and Labuan Bajo were not far behind, becoming more favorable for local tourists.
"Local tourists will dominate the middle market because they get the best opportunity to enjoy tourist destinations that were previously unattainable or unthinkable to visit," he said.
Correction: The previous version of this article mentioned that eight-day quarantine is no longer required. The requirement still applies for now. The Jakarta Globe regrets the error.