Bali kicks off drive-thru virus shots for hospitality workers

Medical workers prepare to administer the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine during a drive-thru vaccination service in Nusa Dua, Indonesia's resort island of Bali, on March 1, 2021. - AFP

JAKARTA (AFP): Indonesian resort island Bali has launched a drive-thru vaccination campaign targeting thousands of hospitality workers, as the popular tourist destination eyes reopening to foreign visitors.

Billed as the first such campaign in Southeast Asia, Bali's drive-thru vaccinations kicked-off at the weekend.

The programme aims to inoculate around 5,000 workers in hospitality and ride-sharing services by the end of this month.

The campaign was rolled out at Nusa Dua Bali Convention Center in Bali's capital Denpasar, set up in partnership with Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab.

"This drive-thru programme is good, because for us drivers who work on the street every day, we are very vulnerable to being exposed to the virus," said ride-hailing driver Zul Widodo.

In August, Bali closed the door to foreign tourists over coronavirus concerns, battering its key tourism sector.

"The Covid-19 vaccine is paramount for Indonesia's tourism industry recovery," Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said in a weekend statement.

"The availability of vaccines continues to be a source of hope for people to return to normalcy and boost confidence that they can travel safely."

The island has recorded some 923 deaths and just over 34,000 virus cases.

The drive-thru vaccination has been rolled out alongside Indonesia's nationwide vaccination bid, which kicked off in January with the Chinese CoronaVac jabs.

Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation, plans to innoculate more than 180 million of its nearly 270 million people.

But it was not clear if the drive-thru programme would be rolled out in other cities across the archipelago.

Indonesia's economy -- Southeast Asia's largest -- has lurched into recession during a pandemic that has infected more than 1.3 million people and killed over 36,000 nationwide, according to official data, though low testing rates mean the figures could be much higher.

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