Ms Lemondhi found out on Friday she had tested positive for COVID-19. Her husband is, hopefully, beginning to recover from the disease.
“We are keen to get home but are happy to wait our turn – there are others in greater need than us. A friend of mine, for example, is trying to get back to Perth where her father is dying,” she said.
Other nations have already acted to help their citizens leave Indonesia, which has the highest case fatality rate in the world and where many have struggled to get vaccinated. Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam have all organised repatriation flights.
Health system struggles
There are no commercial flights operating from Bali to Australia, and the Singaporean government has banned transit passengers from Indonesia. The one remaining weekly direct flight from Jakarta to Australia is booked out until the end of the year.
Indonesia has logged 297,867 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week and the nation’s fragile health system is buckling under the strain. The number of deaths remains stubbornly high, with government data showing more than 1000 people dying from the disease each day.
Foreigners with resident visas are eligible for the national vaccination scheme but some have not applied for a resident identification number and are being rejected. This further limits options because domestic air travel is limited to those who are vaccinated.
This requirement is well known to the Australian government, which is expected to organise an additional repatriation flight from Jakarta.
It is understood the cost for a seat on the Qantas flight from Denpasar will be under $1000 – a fraction of the fare on a chartered flight. Plans by a group of families to organise a Garuda plane to fly from Denpasar to Perth floundered after the price doubled.
The West Australian government’s decision to halve the number of passengers allowed prompted the cost per passenger to jump from $US2000 ($2700) to $US5000. This week Garuda jacked up the cost to charter the plane to $US8000.
Ms Lemondhi said she and her husband would happily book their own flight if they could afford the fares.
“If the government could increase the caps [on international arrivals], more affordable commercial options would open up. But at the moment, there aren’t any options.”