KOMPAS.com – Indonesian Muslims intending to go on Umrah (minor haj) will have to postpone their journeys to Mecca until further notice following Saudi Arabia’s decision to suspend entry to the kingdom due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The temporary ban except for diplomats, Saudi citizens, medical practitioners, and their families is effective from February 3 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The policy affects 20 countries including Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Germany, the United States, Britain, South Africa, France, India, and Pakistan.
“Saudi Arabia’s policy will postpone the departures of Indonesian Umrah pilgrims until the temporary ban is lifted,” Zaky Zakaria Anshary, Umrah Division head of the Association of Indonesia Haj and Umrah Organizers (Amphuri), told Kompas.com on Wednesday, February 3.
Besides, Anshary added, the Consulate General office in Jeddah has reminded the Indonesian Umrah pilgrims who are going to return home in the next few days to contact the airlines or transportation officials to reconfirm their departure.
Anshary expressed regret over the postponement as Umrah travel operators (PPIU) have been actively preparing for the departure of Umrah pilgrims aged 18-60 since January 22 to meet the kingdom’s requirements.
“According to the Religious Affairs Ministry’s data, 52 percent or 30,828 Muslims, who are on the waiting list for pilgrims, are over 50 years old,” Anshary said.
He said that the suspension of Umrah and Haj pilgrims has caused the travel operators to struggle for a year since the Covid-19 began to spread across the world.
“We hope that the Indonesian government will provide its assistance to the operators of Umrah, Haj, and tourism as thousands of companies have been affected,” he said.
Previously, 310 new confirmed cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, while four people have died of Covid-19. Saudi Arabia’s Home Affairs Ministry has taken steps to control and prevent the virus from spreading, including the imported cases.
(Writer: Retia Kartika Dewi | Editor: Sari Hardiyanto)