Thousands of Chinese Stranded in Bali After Flight Ban

(Bloomberg) -- An estimated 5,000 Chinese tourists are stuck in Indonesia’s popular resort island of Bali after Indonesia banned direct flights to and from mainland China to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

As most of the visitors were traveling on short tourist visas and were caught unaware by the flight ban, Indonesia said on Tuesday it would grant extensions of one month. Chinese Consul General in Denpasar Gou Haodong met local officials in Bali and sought help to extend the stay of the stranded tourists, the consulate said in a statement on its website.

Thousands of Chinese Stranded in Bali After Flight Ban

The plight of the tourists illustrates the quandary in which traveling Chinese citizens find themselves after the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus triggered flight and travel restrictions around the world. Indonesia suspended direct flights to and from mainland China from Wednesday with the last flight to Guangzhou departing Wednesday morning from Bali. It has also temporarily discontinued visas on arrival for Chinese citizens.

Thousands of Chinese Stranded in Bali After Flight Ban

Bali, the most popular Indonesian tourist destination, is already feeling the pinch of the virus outbreak with visitors staying away from its beaches and scenic terraced rice paddy fields. Chinese visitors at 2.1 million, were the second largest group of tourists to Indonesia after Malaysians last year, according to the nation’s statistics bureau.

Chinese tourists can still transit through third countries including Malaysia and Thailand if they wish to return home, according to the consulate. But some of them were preferring to stay on in Bali because of the virus outbreak in China, The Jakarta Post reported, citing Consul General Guo.

“We still don’t have an accurate data on the number of Chinese tourists because some of them were booked online and are staying in different places,” said I Putu Astawa, head of the Bali Tourism Agency. “However, according to the consulate, about 5,000 Chinese are in Bali and they are happy here.”

Indonesia has yet to report any confirmed infection though several people are under observation, according to officials. The country has quarantined 243 people evacuated from Hubei province at a facility on Natuna island.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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