Indonesia, Singapore to Start Quarantine-Free Travel Bubble

Quarantine-free travel resumed between Singapore and the nearby Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan on Monday, as the countries continue to prise open their borders despite rising Covid-19 cases.

The travel bubble arrangement, which is open to fully-vaccinated and insured visitors, will help boost tourism and other parts of the economy, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said in an online briefing. It covers people traveling by sea between Singapore and Nongsapura Ferry Terminal in Batam and Bintan Telani Port, he said.

Batam and Bintan were popular weekend getaways for Singapore residents prior to the pandemic. The coronavirus crisis has taken a toll. Overseas visitors to the two Indonesian islands slumped 86% back in 2020, cutting the income of food and accommodation businesses by 41%, the government said last March. Bintan Lagoon Resorts closed down in 2020 as the flow of visitors dried up.

Now Singapore and Indonesia are both following a strategy of trying to live with the virus, opening their borders more freely to those who are eligible. Singapore eased testing rules for vaccinated travelers last week, while Indonesia lifted a ban on all arrivals from overseas earlier this month, though they are still required to isolate for seven days.

The loosening of curbs comes as Indonesia prepares to host international events this year, including the Group of 20 Summit in Bali as well as the MotoGP championship.

The government will consider resuming direct flights between Singapore and Bali if the Covid situation improves, said Luhut Panjaitan, who is in charge of Indonesia’s pandemic response. The new travel arrangement with Batam and Bintan will be reviewed every week, he said.

Indonesia reported 3,205 new coronavirus cases Saturday, a four-month high, with more than half of those registered in the capital Jakarta. –BLOOMBERG