Australians in Indonesia are becoming increasingly desperate for help to return home as a devastating COVID-19 outbreak rages across the country.
The Australian government has indicated it is working with Qantas to organise a facilitated commercial flight for “vulnerable Australians” departing from Indonesia.
There are nearly 800 registered as wanting to return home from the country that has emerged as a new epicentre of the coronavirus, with the country reporting a record 2,069 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours on Tuesday.
Return flights from Indonesia have been severely constricted by the halving of Australia’s quarantine cap and a major reduction in commercial flights out of the country.
Bali-based Georgia Sutherland, her husband and children aged 14, 12 and ten, who recently had their flight to Perth cancelled, are among those wishing to return home.
The expats had moved out of their Bali house and taken their children out of school ahead of their planned flight to Australia.
“The frustrating thing is now we can’t even get home,” she told SBS News.
She compared the uncertainty around their return to being in a “waiting room” with no “clear way of getting back”.
“We need to get back to Australia to get back to our lives that we have planned,” she said.
There have been oxygen shortages as Indonesia’s hospitals filled with patients in the past month, particularly on the densely populated island of Java and in Bali.
About 780 Australians or permanent residents are registered as wanting to return to Australia, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), including approximately 350 who are considered vulnerable.
A spokesperson for DFAT said options were being considered for returning Australians from Indonesia.
“We are working with Qantas on an options for a facilitated commercial flight for vulnerable Australians departing from Indonesia,” the spokesperson said.
“The government is looking at all available options to assist vulnerable Australians in Indonesia to return.”
‘It is just a disaster’
Expat Amelia Lemondhi, who works as a translator in Jakarta is among those that has witnessed the deteriorating COVID-19 situation in the country.
“It is just a disaster,” she told SBS News.
“You feel like you just walk outside and you get it – it is just that contagious.”
She is currently in self-isolation after her husband tested positive to the virus and has welcomed news that the government is working to help those stranded in the country.
But after three years living in Jakarta, the restricted flights home and exorbitant flight prices means the challenge of returning to Australia is immense.
“There is no way of getting out at the moment,” she said.
“I just want to be back home.”
Australian Tristyn Holland – who is in Jakarta with her twelve-year-old daughter – said she is also now concerned about the prospect of her scheduled flight in October going ahead.
“[The virus] is tearing through the expat and the local community,” she told SBS News.
“It’s time that something needs to be done.”
Australians overseas are advised to contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate or call the Department’s emergency contact number if they are in need of assistance.