Mass Vaccinations For Tourism Workers In Riau Islands In Preparation For Safe Travel Corridor With S’pore

Since the pandemic began, by travel restrictions imposed to contain the virus have stranded Singaporeans in our own country.

Don’t mention holidays to Japan or Europe, even day trips via ferry to nearby islands like Batam and Bintan aren’t possible now.

However, those who miss short island-hopping vacations now have a ray of hope: The islands are preparing for a Safe Travel Corridor with Singapore.

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Indonesia’s Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno is pushing for the scheme to welcome tourists from 21 Apr.

Large part of islands’ tourism income from Singaporeans

Batam and Bintan are part of Indonesia’s Riau Islands. They’re the country’s No. 3 provider of income from foreign tourists.

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Most of that income comes from Singaporean and Malaysian tourists, said Mr Uno in a Facebook post.

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Indonesia’s Tourism Minister visits Batam on reopening mission

Thus, he visited Batam on Saturday (20 Mar) on a mission: To discuss the reopening of the Riau Islands for tourists.

Mr Uno (left) greeting Riau Governor Ansar Ahmad at Batam Airport.
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He also came to oversee the mass vaccination of tourism workers in preparation for the reopening.

Foreign tourists must show negative Covid-19 test

During Mr Uno’s meeting with Batam officials, a few key points were outlined as necessary for the safe reopening of the islands.

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One of them is that foreigners entering Batam and Bintan must show a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival, reported Channel NewsAsia (CNA).

They’ll also get tested by a Covid-19 breath tester called GeNose.

The tourists’ movements will also be tracked and traced with an app, similar to Singapore’s TraceTogether.

There may also be visa restrictions, according to Mr Uno’s Facebook post on the meeting.

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Diplomatic talks with Singapore needed to activate corridor

Mr Uno proposed at the meeting that the corridor start on 21 Apr, CNA reported.

However, he also said on Facebook that diplomatic talks with Singapore would be needed to activate the corridor.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan.
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Previous talks between Singapore and Indonesia resulted in essential travel being opened up in Oct 2020.

However, we’ve stopped short at a travel bubble for all travellers so far.

Ferry routes to be prepared for travel corridor

Currently, Singapore has direct routes via ferry to Batam and Bintan, which used to be packed with tourist arrivals.

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Mr Uno told CNA that he has “tried all the routes”, and they can be immediately prepared.

That means the proposed Safe Travel Corridor with Singapore will possibly operate out of Batam’s Nongsapura ferry terminal and Bintan’s Bandar Bintan Telani ferry terminal.

30,000 tourism workers to get vaccine by Apr

On Saturday (20 Mar), Mr Uno also oversaw the mass vaccination of Batam’s tourism workers.

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He said the vaccinations have been long-awaited by the workers, and told CNA that 1,500 got the jab in Batam that day.

Another 2,000 tourism workers were vaccinated in Bintan.

Mr Uno aims to vaccinate 30,000 workers in total before Apr, in order to open the Safe Travel Corridor.

The acceleration of vaccinations is 1 of the steps necessary to revive tourism businesses, he said on Facebook.

Covid-19 cases have ‘dropped drastically’ in Riau Islands

Some Singaporeans may be worried about getting infected in Batam or Bintan.

To that, Mr Uno said in a Facebook post that Covid-19 case numbers in the Riau Islands have “dropped drastically” over the past few months.

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However, the authorities won’t get complacent, and health protocols will still be maintained. Contact tracing, testing and treatment will also be improved to prevent virus spread.

He hopes news of the measures and vaccinations will build optimism, and wants Singaporeans to know this, saying,

We proclaim this good news to neighbouring countries Singapore and Malaysia so they start preparing to plan a trip to Batam and Bintan.

Missing chillout vacays in Batam & Bintan

Batam and Bintan are indeed favoured chillout destinations for Singaporeans, but they became inaccessible since Indonesia closed entry to foreigners almost a year ago.

So news that we might be able to return from 21 Apr will surely interest those who’ve been missing our neighbouring islands.

The Indonesian authorities are certainly keen on the idea of the Safe Travel Corridor, and are doing all they can to ensure the islands can reopen safely.

Will you head to the Riau Islands when and if the travel corridor opens? Do share your thoughts with us.

Have news you must share? Get in touch with us via email at hello@mustsharenews.com

Featured image adapted from Google Maps and Facebook.