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Indonesia to permit travel to and from Japan, 3 other countries

Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture, western Japan, is seen deserted on May 2, 2020, during the Golden Week holidays amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo)

JAKARTA (Kyodo) -- Indonesia has been drawing up a plan to allow the resumption of travel to and from four countries, including Japan, in an effort toward economic recovery after the tourism sector has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic, a government official said Friday.

"Our colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are currently designing travel bubbles for four countries -- China, South Korea, Japan and Australia," Odo Manuhutu, a deputy coordinating minister involved in tourism issues, told a press conference.

According to Manuhutu, discussions have been ongoing to set up criteria for permitting travel between Indonesia and the four countries. Such exceptions to travel restrictions between countries have been referred to as travel bubbles, travel bridges or corona corridors.

"After the criteria are made, negotiations will be held with those countries for two, three or four weeks. When agreements are reached, the travel bubbles will be opened," he said, adding that there have been many requests from countries seeking to resume travel on certain routes.

The arrangements with the four countries will be "prototypes" before other travel routes are opened, Manuhutu said. He indicated that the four countries were selected because "their investment has helped Indonesia's economy a lot."

Direct flights, such as from Seoul to Jakarta or Osaka to Bali, will be encouraged when the travel corridors are created, "because people now avoid transits" due to concern about transmission of the new coronavirus on multi-flight routes, the deputy minister said.

The government has slowly reopened some tourist destinations across the country despite the continued high risk of the new coronavirus spreading.

As of noon Friday, Indonesia reported 1,111 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 36,406 with 2,048 fatalities.

Recovery of domestic tourism has been the first target before the country reopens to tourists from abroad.

The tourism sector in Indonesia faces potential losses of $4 billion due to the drastic decline of foreign tourists and 60 trillion rupiah ($4.1 million) due to fewer domestic tourists from January to April.

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