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Islamic Lifestyle

Indonesia to seek easing of quarantine condition as umrah reopens for international pilgrims

JAKARTA – The ministry of religious affairs will make diplomatic efforts to ease conditions set by Saudi authorities for umrah pilgrims arriving from Indonesia, the Acting Director General of Hajj and Umrah Organization, Khoirizi, told Salaam Gateway.

Saudi authorities will start allowing umrah pilgrims from outside the Kingdom starting August 10.

"The representative of the Indonesian government in Saudi Arabia, namely the Consulate General in Jeddah, received the circular on 15 Zulhijjah 1442H or 25 July 2021,” said Khoirizi, confirming the Saudi announcement.

“We are still studying the requirements and for the sake of pilgrims’ interest, we will also try to lobby it," he added.

The requirements include that arrivals must be fully vaccinated, as well as mandatory 14-day quarantine in third countries for pilgrims from nine nations Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Africa, and Turkey.

The Indonesian Consulate General in Jeddah will make diplomatic efforts through the Deputy for Umrah at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to request that Indonesian pilgrims will not have to be subject to the quarantine period in a third country.

"We will also coordinate with the Saudi Ambassador in Jakarta in the near future to convey this matter," Khoirizi said.

The religious affairs ministry will coordinate with the Ministry of Health, the COVID-19 Prevention Task Force, national agency for disaster management, and other related institutions  to discuss vaccine requirements to ensure Indonesian umrah pilgrims can get their jabs.  

The Saudi government will accept umrah arrivals fully-vaccinated with the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. It will also allow in pilgrims who have received two doses of the Sinovac vaccine if they have also been given a booster shot of any one of the other four.

Indonesia has so far been vaccinating residents with two doses of either Sinovac, Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca. Booster shots or third doses started on July 17 using the Moderna vaccine but only for medical frontliners.

Indonesia’s government will also discuss the requirements of the re-opening of umrah with travel agents.

“We will discuss this together with the umrah travel agents association regarding the requirements set by the Saudis. We hope that the pandemic can be resolved soon so that Indonesian pilgrims can perform the umrah," said Khoirizi.

Syam Resfiadi, chairperson of the Indonesia Hajj and Umrah Travel Association (SAPUHI) told Salaam Gateway he would urge the government to first get the pandemic situation at home under control.

“I suggest the government to be more patient, hold it until we all can really handle the COVID-19 situation well,” said Syam.

Indonesia has become Southeast Asia’s COVID-19 epicentre. The number of new cases on Monday (July 26) reached 28,228 and 1,487 deaths.

The vaccination rate as of Monday was 22.47% (44.7 million) for one dose and 8.7% (18.1 million) for two doses. The target is to vaccinate 208.3 million, or two thirds, of the population.

“The complete doses are important to make sure that a country has adequate resources and action in handling the COVID-19 and to make sure foreigners and Saudis are safe there during the umrah,” Syam said.

The quarantine condition set by the Saudi authorities with regards the nine countries, including Indonesia, show that these new COVID-19 epicentres have to better manage the pandemic, he said.   

“Even if they have given permission with the quarantine option in the third countries I think it is useless. 14 days of quarantine is so long and so inefficient, business-wise.”

*Correction: The day was corrected from Tuesday (July 26) to Monday (July 26)

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