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Trapped in Bali, Chinese tourists extend holiday on coronavirus concerns

DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Steven Gu, a Chinese tourist on the Indonesian island of Bali, was supposed to fly back last month from his holiday to his home town in Jiangsu province to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Li Rong, 46-year-old Chinese citizen from Shenzen, talks to an immigration officer to extend her Indonesian visa at the Immigration Office in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia February 7, 2020. REUTERS/Johannes P. Christo

But when he learned about the coronavirus outbreak in China, Gu, who has been in Bali since mid-January, decided to extend his stay with his wife, child and his parents.

“The epidemic in China is very serious now, therefore I hope to keep my family safe by staying in Bali,” Gu told Reuters.

He is not alone. Thousands of Chinese tourists on the resort island have opted to remain amid fears over the coronavirus, which has killed more than 600.

A Bali-based law and human rights ministry official, Sutrisno, said authorities would help Chinese tourists with visas if they did not want to return yet.

“We will extend their stay for one month. Every visa on arrival can be extended once and for 30 days. But if their country is not safe to return we will help to facilitate this for humanitarian purposes,” said Sutrisno, who uses one name.

Chinese tourists are among the biggest groups of visitors to Indonesia, especially in destinations such as Bali.

The coronavirus outbreak has already started to hurt Indonesia’s tourism industry by halting Chinese tourist arrivals, said the chairman of the China committee at the Indonesian Association of Tours and Travel, Hery Sudiarto.

“The impact on tourism is terrible especially after flights have been cancelled and visas on arrival has been discontinued, it will stop Chinese tourists from coming to Bali in the short term,” said Sudiarto.

Indonesia, which has not recorded any cases of coronavirus, has barred visitors who have been in China for 14 days and all flights to and from there have been halted since Wednesday.

Gu felt confident the Chinese government would overcome the threat of the virus. “We will go back when the situation becomes stable ... I hope it will be over soon,” he said.

Additional reporting by Angie Teo; Writing by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Ed Davies