Japan ramps up expat exodus from delta-battered Indonesia



Japanese nationals check in for the special chartered flight Wednesday at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport serving Jakarta.   © Kyodo

KOYA JIBIKI, Nikkei staff writer | Indonesia

JAKARTA — Japanese companies have accelerated efforts to help expatriates leave Indonesia amid a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the delta variant, with Tokyo supporting chartered flights home by easing entry restrictions.

A chartered All Nippon Airways flight landed at Tokyo’s Narita Airport on Wednesday, carrying 192 returnees who are required to spend more than a week in quarantine at a hotel. The flight was the first under a program launched by the airline to bring back expats working in Indonesia for Japanese companies along with their families.

Japan Airlines will send its own chartered flight on Sunday.

This follows an ANA flight chartered by the general contractor Shimizu that repatriated 52 employees and family members last week. A total of 370 Japanese nationals in Indonesia have tested positive as of Wednesday, with the infections resulting in 17 deaths, according to the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta.

Roughly 2,000 Japanese expats showed interest in leaving the country as of Friday, the deadline to sign up for the chartered flights, according to the embassy, which is taking the applications.

Both ANA and JAL will send additional chartered flights to accommodate surplus applicants. The Japanese government is supporting the flights by exempting them from the limits placed on international arrivals leading into the Tokyo Olympics.

Packages cost between 400,000 yen and 500,000 yen ($3,650 to $4,560) per person for economy-class seats on a chartered flight out of Indonesia and quarantine accommodations — an 11-night stay at a hotel. The Japanese government expects most flight packages to be purchased by expats who can expect their employers to defray costs.

The Japanese government will shoulder the costs of quarantining for certain individuals and for small to midsized companies. A chartered flight serving that contingent of returnees will arrive next week.

Indonesia has become one of the biggest epicenters for the pandemic due to the highly contagious delta variant, which was first reported in India. The seven-day rolling average for new cases has hit 47,789, according to the latest tally kept by University of Oxford’s Our World in Data.

The pandemic has started to affect business operations among Japanese multinationals. Daihatsu Motor has scaled back production and Panasonic has placed restrictions on the number of plant personnel.

The Indonesian government is beginning to fine companies for violating disease control measures, with the expat exodus potentially creating chain-of-command problems with factories.

Other countries have been recalling expats from Indonesia as well. About 80 South Korean nationals have been repatriated, South Korean broadcaster Arirang reported last week. As of Wednesday, 288 South Koreans residing in the country have been infected with the coronavirus, and 15 people have died, according to the South Korean Embassy in Indonesia.

About 90 Taiwanese businesspeople in Indonesia are due to fly back home on a chartered flight next Wednesday, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

The Vietnamese Embassy in Indonesia has started taking applications online from citizens in the country wishing to repatriate. Saudi Arabia brought back one of its nationals.

Meanwhile, 20 Chinese workers landed in the Indonesian city of Makassar on July 3, the Indonesian newspaper Kompas reported. Foreign nationals are generally banned from entering the country, but the state grants exceptions for workers engaged in infrastructure development and other special government projects. The Chinese laborers have proof of vaccination, according to the report.

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