Indonesia will keep its doors closed to tourists until a coronavirus vaccine is found and immunity can be provided, a government official said Saturday as the country continued to conduct clinical testing for a vaccine.
“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, said during a virtual public discussion.
Since Tuesday, Indonesia has been conducting 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 drugmaker Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and a team of Indonesian scientists and researchers, as well as Indonesian state-owned drugmaker PT Bio Farma.
Once clinical testing for about 6½ 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 the minister for state-owned enterprises, the government did not want its efforts to mitigate the pandemic undermined by the reopening of its borders to tourists, which might lead to cluster infections.
Acknowledging that immunity may only start next year, Thohir said reopening to foreign travelers must go hand in hand with producing immunity to prevent any need to start again from scratch.
“Therefore, for the time being, we are still reviewing the plan to reopen (Indonesia) for foreign tourists,” he said.
As of Friday noon, Indonesia had reported 2,307 confirmed coronavirus infections, bringing the total to 135,123 with 6,021 fatalities.
The government has slowly reopened some tourist destinations for domestic tourists despite the continued high risk of spreading the virus.
Recovery of domestic tourism has been the first target before reopening to tourists from abroad.
Indonesia is also in negotiations with some countries to set up travel corridors for business travelers. Indonesia has reached agreements with South Korea and the United Arab Emirates for such travel bubbles.
Indonesia’s tourism sector is facing potential losses of $4 billion from the drastic decline in tourism.