The number of people infected with the coronavirus Covid19 remains low in Indonesia and particularly in Bali, although the numbers continue to increase slightly every day. Today, out of a total of 270,000,000 inhabitants, 2,276 people have officially died of coronavirus in Indonesia, including 6 people in Bali. There is no evidence that the total number of infections is actually increasing, as the number of people tested is rising sharply. For example, Indonesians need to obtain a negative Covid19 test to travel in the country. Indonesia and especially Bali were among the first regions of the world to be in massive contact with Chinese from Wuhan from the beginning of the crisis, so we can think that the risk of contagion to the Coronavirus was much greater during the months of December, January and February when several hundred thousand Chinese were present on the island. Even though during this period there was no massive increase in illness and death. So it could be that the worst is already over, although we must remain cautious.
Gradually, the restrictions put in place to varying degrees in different parts of Indonesia are being eased. Restrictions on movement across the country have been lifted and domestic flights have resumed. To date, there is no reliable information about when regular international flights will resume and when tourists will return to Bali. Some members of the government had initially announced July, but it seems more likely that the official reopening will take place in September or October (this date is also unconfirmed). For the time being Indonesians and other residents (plus a few rare exceptions) are the only people allowed to enter the territory. At the same time, Bali continues to empty as many of the foreigners who stayed on the island during the epidemic return home. It may be possible that local tourism will recover more quickly even though touristic sites are still officially closed in Bali.
Even though the coronavirus COVID19 has not been highly active in Bali, many victims are suffering because of the economic situation, which has been almost completely stopped since April. More than 80% of the island’s income is linked to tourism, with Bali being the favorite touristic destination for many nationalities, especially Chinese and Australians.
To date approximately 90% of the hotels, restaurants and shops in the tourist areas are closed. Employees have either lost their jobs (unemployment insurance does not exist in Indonesia, so these people have no more income at all) or have been put on hold waiting for a recovery (with or without financial compensation). A small number of lucky people have kept their jobs and salaries, some of them working part-time.
Let us not forget all the small shops that have been closed, such as those located on beaches that have been inaccessible for 2 months (today some beaches are reopening). Self-employed workers such as drivers who usually drive back and forth between hotels/villas and the airport or on excursions. Guides and companies offering activities are on pause, all food related activities (markets, fishing, supermarkets etc…) are also running in slow motion. Almost a whole economy at a standstill.
With more than 4,000,000 inhabitants in Bali, there is indeed a local market but since its people do not have any more or just little income, they are spending very little. Expatriates and the few tourists who have decided to stay on the island during the crisis make some sectors work very lightly.
Even if Indonesians have not had to endure the confinement, their situation is very difficult, many of them can no longer afford to feed their families. Fortunately, in these difficult times solidarity takes an important place in society. Many expatriates and locals have been mobilized to distribute food all around the island.
As the future of the coronavirus COVID19 crisis is still very uncertain, it is hard to predict precisely when tourist activity will return to Bali.
As it seems to be the case in almost all tropical regions, the number of victims linked to the coronavirus COVID19 is limited in Indonesia (1,496 deaths to date for 267,000,000 inhabitants). Nevertheless, the authorities have taken the problem seriously by applying measures adapted to the degree of severity of the contagion but also to the particularities of the country. The regions of Indonesia are affected at different levels. Regions are free to apply more or less strict measures but are not allowed to force the population to be confined. Cities have the most cases due to overcrowding and the more intensive use of public transport in particular. Wearing a mask has been compulsory for several weeks, but Indonesians wore it long before it became an obligation.
Despite the large number of Chinese (several hundred thousand) visiting the island between November 2019 and the end of February 2020, Bali is one of the least affected regions of the country and therefore of the world. Officially to date 420 people have tested positive, 312 have recovered and 4 have died. As everywhere else in the world we can wonder what these numbers really reflect but living on the island we have been able to see by ourselves that there have been no proven cases close to us, that the hospitals have never been overwhelmed and that the global number of deaths does not seem to have increased during this period. As in most part of the country, Balinese people live mostly outdoors. But in Bali more than anywhere else, all the ” living rooms ” of Balinese houses are outside and have no walls, families and friends are most meeting on the terraces or in the ” bale ” (gazebo). Handshakes, “hugs” and “kisses” like in the western world are not common here. Moreover, the Covid19 seems to have poor heat resistance. These might be reasons why Bali is not strongly affected by the virus itself. Unfortunately 80% of the Balinese economy is linked to tourism, so the economic and social consequences of this global crisis are catastrophic.