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UK virus fear sparks Indonesia visitor ban

International visitors will be barred from entering Indonesia for a two-week period to try to keep out a new potentially more contagious strain of the coronavirus, foreign minister Retno Marsudi says.

The new regulation, effective from January 1, comes days after Indonesia banned travellers from Britain and tightened rules for those arriving from Europe and Australia to limit the spread of the new variant.

Indonesia earlier this year banned all foreign tourists from entry but some exemptions have been made for business travellers.

The new regulation applies to all foreign visitors, except for high-level government officials, the foreign minister said.

The world’s fourth most populous country has struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19 since recording its first case in March.

With nearly 720,000 confirmed infections and 21,500 deaths, its figures are among the highest in Asia.

Indonesia announced 5,854 new infections and 215 deaths on Monday.

In recent weeks the country’s healthcare system has come under strain, with hospitals on Java island forced to add more beds as emergency wards near capacity.

Senior health ministry official Abdul Kadir on Monday said hospitals were in danger of becoming overwhelmed by a possible year-end holiday infections spike, with occupancy in the capital Jakarta already reaching 84 per cent.

In West Java, Indonesia’s most populated province, hospital occupancy is currently at 83 per cent, and in East Java, 77 per cent, he said.

“This means that these regions are in the red zone,” he said.

“The bed capacity is now in the red zone. Any uptick will overwhelm hospitals.”

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