Newcastle man Bryden Roper (right) has been stuck on a boat with a group of friends after they were denied entry into the Indonesian island of Sumba. Picture: Facebook
Newcastle man Bryden Roper (right) has been stuck on a boat with a group of friends after they were denied entry into the Indonesian island of Sumba. Picture: Facebook

Aussie surfers trapped amid Bali coronavirus chaos

Nine Australian surfers are trapped on their boat having been refused entry to the Indonesian island of Sumba.

Ten days ago the Australian men - who are mostly from Newcastle in New South Wales - cleared a coronavirus screening before heading off on their surfing jaunt.

Brydon Roper, who is from Maitland, but lives in Bali, called for help on an Indonesian social media forum.

 

Bryden Roper said via social media he and his friends had been tested for coronavirus but still denied entry onto the island. Picture: Facebook
Bryden Roper said via social media he and his friends had been tested for coronavirus but still denied entry onto the island. Picture: Facebook

 

"The harbour master is not letting us off the boat due to coronavirus. The East of Sumba have restrictions on westerners coming here. We were tested by government officials before boarding the boat in Lombok and registered with the harbour master to arrive today (Saturday)," Mr Roper said.

According to the Head of Port Office and Harbour Authority Waingapu Port, Mr Anis Kumanireng, fuel, food and water has been dispatched to the 15 men - which includes an American, a guide and four crew.

"The Phinishi Bulan Baru ship entered Waingapu port on Saturday morning. We refused them to enter the port according to the instructions of the East Sumba Regent (Bupati) since March 8 about the closing of tourist visits related to the coronavirus," he said.

The boat is now preparing to sail to Labuan Bajo in Flores.

"We have still seen planes landing and ferries coming and going," Mr Roper said.

The boat came within three kilometres of the harbour to refuel and for other logistics, which Mr Kumanireng said was permitted for "humanitarian reasons".

 

Bryden Roper is from Maitland in New South Wales but lives in Bali. Picture: Facebook
Bryden Roper is from Maitland in New South Wales but lives in Bali. Picture: Facebook

 

"The crew and passengers are not permitted to leave the ship. We don't want their arrival to make the people here angry. Because in this port there are many fishing communities. We have told the boat to leave the port immediately. Port health office officials have checked and passengers already have a yellow card stating they are free of the coronavirus," he said.

BALI 'UNPREPARED' FOR OUTBREAK

But as the killer virus sweeps around the world, the beach clubs and restaurants on holiday island of Bali remain party central for young Aussies, despite the island being shockingly unprepared to handle a mass outbreak of COVID-19.

On Saturday night 600 people - including dozens of Aussies - danced on tables, kissed and cavorted at the Australian owned Motel Mexicola club in Seminyak.

The Bali Government also announced school closures from Monday.

Indonesia has reported 100 confirmed cases of the contagion with five deaths - but unofficially the number is said to run into the thousands.

Indonesia's minister of transportation, Budi Karya Sumadi, has tested positive and is undergoing hospital treatment.

 

Bali tourists wait for their departure at a harbour as tourism on the resort island has fallen due to the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: AP
Bali tourists wait for their departure at a harbour as tourism on the resort island has fallen due to the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: AP

 

The head of Bali's health services, Ketut Suaraja, has all but admitted the island is woefully unprepared to handle mass outbreaks.

"This is a new virus. In Bali, we do not have the ability to detect it. All provinces in Indonesia have not been able to, so [tests] must be sent to Jakarta," Mr Suaraja said.

When people show symptoms and present at hospital, they are isolated in the hospital, however, it is understood that hundreds of people are nursing symptoms at home.

Thermal scanners at the airport have led to 120 people being refused a visa at Bali immigration and returned to their home country.

Diagnostic testing requires every sample to be sent to Jakarta, which is the only place in the whole of Indonesia that has the appropriate equipment to diagnose COVID-19.

Apart from a mass disinfectant treatment, the government has enforced no daily protocols upon hotels, restaurants, beach clubs or other destinations that attract tourists.

 

An official sprays disinfectant to prevent the new coronavirus at a beach in Bali. Picture: AP
An official sprays disinfectant to prevent the new coronavirus at a beach in Bali. Picture: AP

 

They continue to trade with guests appearing oblivious to the practice of "social distancing".

Last week, a British woman died in a Bali hospital, triggering a crisis management at two exclusive hotels.

The Four Seasons Hotel in Jimbaran Bay sent 53 staff - nearly 10 per cent of the resort's team - who had contact with the deceased woman's husband, home. The man, who was quarantined in hospital, later tested negative to the virus.

The resort had already implement heightened hygiene practices, with hand sanitiser available throughout the hotel and masks available upon request, but the hotel has not closed any facilities, including restaurants, bars, swimming pools, a children's club, or spa.

Meanwhile, Capella - an ultra-glamorous tented camp in Ubud where the woman stayed before being admitted to hospital - is now quarantined while new arrivals are being relocated to nearby resorts as the camp undergoes a deep disinfectant clean.

The Bali Heath Service has added just 35 isolation spaces in three hospitals with a contingency plan of 50 hospital beds at the Udayana University and Bali Mandara hospital, as an emergency fund of $1.5 million has been created.

 

Tourists are departing Bali quickly. Picture: AP
Tourists are departing Bali quickly. Picture: AP

 

"What we are dealing with now is not Mount Agung. If Mount Agung, we can isolate a radius of four kilometres. But this virus we cannot identify," said Deputy Governor of Bali Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati who conceded that a temporary lockdown of the island is under consideration.

Tourism has collapsed by 40 per cent with just 9000 people arriving daily instead of 15,000.

A record 1.23 million Aussies landed on the tropical paradise island last year despite recent seismic events including an horrific earthquake in Lombok, volcanic disruptions from Mount Agung, killer methanol poisonings and problems with inebriated tourists.

Richard Flax, the founder of the international insurer IGH and expert in risk mitigation on the island, said that if anyone suspects they have the virus they should immediately isolate.

"Lock yourself away from anybody. Do not get on a plane because the likely hood of spreading the infection is huge. The tests only confirm the virus. People will know they have it because they'll have a cough bad enough to kill you and a sore throat and fever," he warned.

Hand sanitiser and face masks have virtually disappeared from supermarket shelves and police are taking action against businesses that are price gouging or hoarding masks to sell to Brunei.



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