Thousands of Chinese tourists stranded on the Indonesian island of Bali appeared happy to extend their holiday as only a few dozen boarded a repatriation flight on Saturday back to the coronavirus-stricken city of Wuhan, officials said.
As many as 189 seats on the charter flight were offered to around 3,000 Chinese tourists stranded on the island after Indonesia suspended flights to mainland China, according to Bali authorities.
However only 61 people, including 12 children, took up the offer and boarded the China Eastern Airlines flight for Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak which has killed more than 700 people in China and spread around the world.
All of them were Wuhan residents “who wanted to go back to their country” Gou Haodong, the Chinese consul general in Denpasar, said.
“We will consider it (another flight) if we receive requests,” Gou said, adding the evacuees “love Bali and would return again.”
He said those who had decided to stay had done so mainly to enjoy a longer holiday.
Bali Airport Authority head Elfi Amir said the evacuees had undergone medical checks and “they are all healthy.”
Indonesia attracts about 2.1 million Chinese visitors annually but the number has fallen from about 6,000 arrivals per day to just 1,000 since the new coronavirus outbreak began in mid-December.
The sprawling archipelago - the world’s fourth most populous country with over 260 million people - has not reported a confirmed case of coronavirus.
That has stirred concerns cases may be going undetected in a nation with strong tourism and business links to China.
On Friday, Bali officials said they had refused entry to 41 foreign tourists who had recently been in China, including visitors from Russia, Brazil, New Zealand, Morocco and Britain.