Coronavirus News Asia

Bali’s mysterious immunity to Covid-19

Nearly three months into the Covid-19 pandemic and there is little to suggest that the Indonesian resort island of Bali is in the grip of a pending public health disaster with only 86 cases and two deaths.

That’s despite the fact the wider archipelagic nation is now widely seen as Southeast Asia’s slow-ticking coronavirus time bomb with the region’s highest number of cases at 4,839 as of April 14. Infections to date have been heavily concentrated on populous Java island.  

“I find it puzzling too because it doesn’t make sense,” says Rio Helmi, a long-time Balinese resident who writes a regular blog on life around the mountain town of Ubud about the low number of cases on Bali. “We don’t have the data, but there’s been no sign of a spike in deaths.”

Nor are there stories of hospitals overflowing, a sharp increase in cremations or any other anecdotal evidence that the coronavirus is running rampant on the Hindu-majority island’s 4.2 million population, among them thousands of foreign residents.

For example, the coastal village of Pererenan, a popular surfing location at the northern end of the Balinese tourist strip, has yet to have a Covid-19 case, according to local Balinese residents.  Other nearby villages also appear to be free of the virus.

“We’re just not hearing about a huge death toll out there,” says Jack Daniels, a long-established tour operator and editor of the weekly on-line newsletter Balidiscovery.

He notes that both of the island’s Covid-19 deaths so far have been foreigners, including a British woman with underlying health issues.

Goverment officers spray the desinfectan liquid to road users to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Bali, Indonesia, on March 23, 2020. Photo: AFP via NurPhoto/Agoes Rudianto

The Bali capital of Denpasar has four crematoriums which don’t appear to be any more active than usual, even if Balinese do sometimes temporarily bury their dead to wait for an auspicious day to perform traditional funeral rites.

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