Bali Prepares to Reopen with 1,000+ Mass Prayer to Bless the ‘New Normal’

People pray during a ceremony dedicated to the Hindu deity Saraswati at Jagatnatha temple in Denpasar on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on July 4, 2020. (Photo by SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP) (Photo by SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP via Getty Images)
SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP via Getty

Bali’s provincial government organized a mass prayer ceremony attended by over 1,000 people “seeking blessings” as Indonesia’s top tourist destination prepares to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, local news outlet Coconuts Bali reported on Monday.

The first phase of Bali’s reopening will begin this Thursday when restaurants across the island begin accepting local business. The second phase will see Bali reopen to domestic tourists by the end of July while maintaining “strict health protocols” to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Bali provincial secretary Dewa Made Indra told local reporters on Sunday. The third phase, reopening to foreign tourists, is slated for September 11.

To kick off the reopening week, Bali’s provincial leaders held an in-person prayer ceremony at Besakih Hindu temple in the town of Karangasem “expressing gratitude for the handling of the new coronavirus on the island and seeking blessings for the start of a ‘new normal,'” Reuters reported. Over 1,000 people gathered for the Hindu ceremony.

Tourism is Bali’s main source of income and travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic have hurt the local economy.

“The occupancy rate at Bali’s starred hotels plunged to 2.07 percent in May, according to Bali statistics bureau data, from 62.55 percent in December before the pandemic hit and down from 51.56 percent in May 2019,” Reuters reports.

Local officials are eager to reopen Bali’s businesses.

“We are still trying our best to handle COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus], but at the same time we must restart activities to continue the livelihoods of the people,” Bali Governor Wayan Koster said at the prayer ceremony on Sunday, according to Coconuts Bali.

Koster insists that Bali’s gradual reopening plans remain “tentative” and that, while government officials “hope for the best,” the resuming of economic activities will be done with caution. According to Coconuts Bali,  “official data have yet to suggest a slowing rate of coronavirus infections in the province.”

Bali has reported 1,849 cases and 20 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus so far. According to the report, in recent weeks “cases of local transmissions traced back to traditional markets have contributed to notable spikes.” This contrasts with Bali’s experience at the beginning of its coronavirus outbreak, in which imported cases accounted for the majority of infections. Although Bali has implemented various restrictions on movement and social distancing protocols since the beginning of its outbreak, the island has “stopped short of going into a full lockdown.”

In May, Bali police arrested three people for using fake coronavirus medical documents to island-hop from Java to Bali’s Gilimanuk Port. At the time, Indonesia had restricted travel on its islands to curb the spread of the virus. Those who did travel were required to present medical documents declaring them free of coronavirus. Many Indonesians purchased forged versions of these documents and traveled illegally.

At press time on Monday, Indonesia had recorded a total of 64,958 cases and 3,241 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.

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