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Bali beaches reopen only for foreign surfers to uphold ‘image,’ official says

Published on June 5, 2020

Foreign surfers in Bali are now officially permitted to access two beaches in Bali’s Badung regency, a local official has confirmed. The concession, however, is plainly discriminatory as it does not apply to local residents, who are instead asked to remain patient while staying at home.

I Made Badra, who heads the Tourism Agency in Badung, told local media outlets yesterday that access to the beaches are open for foreigners looking to catch a wave, though other activities – such as sunbathing or going on a leisurely walk – are still not permitted.

“We are loosening [restrictions] on two beaches, which is Labuan Sait and Canggu because the waves are popular among surfers,” Badra told Kompas.

Badung regency, where some of Bali’s most popular beaches are located, has seen a number of surfers sneaking through the bushes and attempting to trespass barricades in order to catch some waves since tourist attractions across the island closed in late March to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Badra said foreigners cited mental health concerns after staying at home for the past few months.

“They are stressed out from being at home the past three months. So we are loosening [the restrictions] a little, but they have to adhere to protocols by passing through the monitoring posts in those two locations,” he said.

However, local residents are still not allowed to access the beaches, Badra noted, not even to engage in the same activity of surfing.

“I implore local residents to restrain themselves because there is still time to enjoy the beaches. Let the foreigners [have access] for [the sake of] image first,” he said.

Bali Governor Wayan Koster today criticized Badung regency for the partial reopening.

“I will be telling the head of the Tourism Agency [in Badung]. Tourism is not open. [I] disagree, and [new normal] has not been applied,” Koster was quoted as saying.

The governor cited a previous gubernatorial instruction issued in April which announced the closure of tourist attractions across Bali and is still applicable until further notice.

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