Indonesia to close doors to tourists until vaccine found

Indonesia will continue not to open its doors to foreign tourists until a new coronavirus vaccine is found and immunity can be provided, a government official said Saturday, as the hard-hit country is conducting clinical testing for a vaccine.

“It looks like we will not be welcoming foreign tourists until the end of the year. We will just be consolidating first,” Luhut Pandjaitan, the chief minister for maritime affairs and investment, told Indonesia’s business community in a virtual forum on Thursday.

“The reopening of tourist destinations to foreign tourists is something positive, but we need to do it at the right time,” Erick Thohir, chief of Indonesia’s national economic and COVID-19 recovery team, told a virtual public discussion.

Since Tuesday, Indonesia has been conducting the final, phase 3 clinical testing for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung.

The clinical trial is taking place with the cooperation of Chinese-based drug maker Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and a team of Indonesian scientists and researchers, as well as Indonesian state-owned drug maker PT Bio Farma which have developed the vaccine candidate.

Once clinical testing for about six and a half months is completed, vaccine production will immediately start and pave the way to offering immunity to the general public.

According to Thohir, who is also state-owned enterprises minister, the government did not want its efforts to mitigate the novel coronavirus pandemic undermined by the reopening of its borders to tourists to avoid creating new clusters.

Acknowledging that immunity may only start next year, Thohir said reopening the country’s borders to foreign travelers must go hand in hand with producing immunity so as not to start again from scratch.

“Therefore, for the time being, we are still reviewing the plan to reopen (Indonesia) for foreign tourists,” he said.