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Indonesia gives free Bali staycations to test tourism readiness

JAKARTA: Indonesia is offering free tours and staycations to 4,440 residents of Bali, in a seven-week tourism dry run to promote the international holiday hotspot and test its coronavirus health protocols.

The authorities halted tourism in Indonesia's prime attraction in April to prevent the spread of the virus, devastating its economy.

Though it reopened for local visitors in July, it is struggling to get back on track and has also seen infection numbers climb.

Bali's tourism agency head I. Putu Astawa said that 4,440 participants would be separated into 12 groups and given two-night stays at resorts between Oct 7 and Nov 27 to test out measures designed to keep visitors safe.

The trips will include local tours and participants are expected to promote the "New Normal Bali" on social media.

Bali last year had more than 10 million visitors, 6.3 million of whom were foreigners, Mr Astawa said.

The staycation plan was announced on a day when Indonesia reported 4,634 new cases, a record for new daily infections, bringing the total number to 262,022.

There were 128 more deaths, taking the total toll to 10,105 - South-east Asia's highest.

On average, Bali recorded 48 cases a day from Aug 1 to Aug 23. It recorded 127 cases on average per day in all of this month.

Meanwhile, foreigners arriving in Malaysia through its various entry points will now have to pay fees for the Covid-19 mandatory quarantine in full, said Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri, who is also the Defence Minister, said yesterday that the government will continue subsidising the quarantine costs for Malaysians.

"Malaysians will have to pay only RM2,100 (S$690) for their accommodation, while the operational costs of RM2,600 will be paid by the government.

"For foreigners, they will have to pay the full charges of RM4,700," he said.

For the second and third individuals who are allowed to share a room with the first individual, they will pay RM700 a person, the minister said.

Children below six years old are exempted from the fees, he added.

Malaysia confirmed 71 new cases yesterday, 63 of them in Sabah. It has a total of 10,576 cases. There were no deaths reported yesterday.

The Philippines yesterday reported 2,180 new cases and 36 deaths.

Total confirmed cases has increased to 296,755, still the highest in South-east Asia, while the death toll is now at 5,127, the Health Department said. - REUTERS, THE STAR

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