Along with Singapore’s new border restrictions on Indonesian passport holders, Batam authorities in Riau Islands advised its residents not to travel abroad temporarily, especially to neighbouring countries like Singapore, in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Deputy Batam Mayor Amsakar said in a press briefing on Monday (16 March), “We will issue a circular suggesting that residents do not travel abroad, especially to Singapore, for the next two weeks.” In addition, he said that he has been coordinating with the Singaporean General Consul in Batam regarding new border restrictions.
He added that the local administration was technically unable to restrict Singaporeans from entering Batam because the health-detection procedure for foreigners is carried out by the Port Health Office (KKP) which is directly under the authority of the Health Ministry.
“Singaporeans will be strictly checked, although we hear that Singapore has prevented its citizens from leaving [the country] as well,” said Mr Amsakar.
As reported by Indonesian local media, Detik.com, according to a ferry ticket seller in Batam Center International Port named Santi, cruise rules now require passengers from Indonesia to fulfil at least one of the provisions issued by Singapore.
Ms Santi noted, “This morning (16 March) all ferry counters to Singapore were notified of three provisions, namely having a temporary residence permit, a permanent resident and a study pass while in Singapore.”
Based on these requirements, one traveller named Dewi deliberately chose to depart from Malaysia to enter Singapore.
“I chose a cruise from Johor Bahru, Malaysia, then after arriving in Malaysia, I would just take a bus into Singapore. The problem is that it’s very complicated to get into Singapore,” Dewi said.
Singapore authorities applied new border restrictions on Monday requiring those who enter the country with recent travel histories to countries affected by Covid-19, including Indonesia, in the last 14 days to accept a 14-day of Stay-Home Notice. This rule does not apply to Singaporeans and Malaysians traveling by land and water crossing with Malaysia services.
Riau Island Governor, Isdianto said that he would discuss further with relevant parties regarding the impacts of these new border restrictions on economics in the city.
Asmadi, the chairman of the Batam branch of the Indonesian National Shipowners Association (INSA), said he was surprised by the latest restriction policy and predicted it would hit ferry operators hard. He said the number of passengers on ferries serving the Batam-Singapore route had declined significantly as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“The policy certainly makes it more complicated for Indonesian people to go to Singapore than before,” said Mr Asmadi. “We don’t know what it will look like in the next few days.”
In accordance with the Batam Investment Board (BPM), around 2,700 foreigners, mostly from Singapore and India, are employed by at least 400 companies in the city.
The Batam Immigration Office recorded in 2018 around 3.3 million passengers entering the city through five international ferry ports, namely Batam Center, Citra Tritunas or Harbor Bay, Sekupang, Marina, and Nongsa Point Marina. Of these, 1 million were Singaporeans while 1.6 million were Indonesians.
As reported by Indonesian local media, Detik.com, Nika Astaga, Batam Center International Ferry Port operational manager remarked, “For the Batam-Malaysia route is still relatively safe, while the destination of Singapore and vice versa has decreased.”