Batam gets ready to welcome essential travellers from Singapore
The Indonesian holiday island of Batam is gearing up to welcome travellers from Singapore again, after both countries formally agreed to resume cross-border travel for essential business and official purposes.
Preparations are being made to install equipment to run polymerase chain reaction tests at the Batam Centre ferry terminal, which has been designated as an entry and exit point for sea travel. Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport will cater to air travellers.
Singapore and Indonesia last Monday issued a joint statement announcing a reciprocal green lane for travel between the two countries. Applications will begin on Oct 26, and travel soon after.
Acting Batam Mayor Syamsul Bahrum said: "We have made a simulation of the arrival procedures for travellers, from disembarking from the vessel to taking the swab test and being taken to their respective hotels."
He added that officials from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Jakarta are expected to go to the island before Oct 26 to run through the procedures.
The news of the cross-border relaxation brought much cheer to Batam, a popular weekend getaway for Singaporeans before the pandemic.
Batam Centre international ferry port operations manager Nika Astaga told The Straits Times that the port served around 5,000 travellers from Singapore and Malaysia daily before the pandemic, with the numbers hitting 15,000 during weekends and peak holiday seasons.
He had been told by local authorities to be prepared to handle around 300 passengers from Singapore during the first month once the green lane comes into effect. "The number is not significant, but for the initial stage, we are happy. This is a good sign, like an oasis in the desert for us who have suffered losses for seven months," he added.
Around 10 hotels on the island have so far been identified to receive travellers from Singapore. One of the hotels, Asialink Hotel Batam by Prasanthi, said it has received bookings for two rooms for after Oct 26 from Singaporeans since the green lane was announced.
The hotel's general manager Arinis said guests will be served meals at promotional prices while waiting for results of the swab tests.
As a health precaution, keys with only one-time access will be given to guests. If they leave the room without permission while waiting for the results and are locked out, they will be reported to the authorities.
Rooms will also be simply furnished, with decorations removed to minimise surfaces being touched and the spread of the coronavirus, he added.