118,000 Indonesians have performed Umrah this year: ministry

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At least 118 thousand Indonesians have performed Umrah in Saudi Arabia between January 8 and April 2022, director-general of Hajj and Umrah organizers at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Hilman Latief, has said.

“Since January, we have had 118 thousand people who went to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah pilgrimage,” Latief informed during an online discussion on Wednesday.

The implementation of Umrah this year has been dynamic since the world is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. Therefore, precautionary measures are needed to protect Umrah pilgrims.

At the beginning of Umrah re-opening, the Saudi Arabian government had imposed strict rules for foreign pilgrims, for instance, they needed to get one of the four vaccines approved by Saudi Arabia, quarantine in third countries before entering Saudi Arabia, and undergo a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs responded by implementing the One Gate Policy to suppress the potential transmission of COVID-19.

“At that time, our policy was appreciated by many parties, but some parties also declined the policy,” Latief noted.

As the number of cases of COVID-19 in Saudi Arabia declined, the local authorities revoked a number of health protocols, such as those covering quarantine and PCR tests. The country has now mandated obtaining the complete dose of the vaccines approved by it.

However, in the early stages of departure, some pilgrims were exposed to COVID-19 after returning from Saudi Arabia. In fact, the positivity rate reached 47.22 percent in January and by March, the figure fell by only about 0.67 percent.

“We are grateful that we can get through that from all the pressures and challenges,” he said.

Interestingly, when the Saudi Arabian government relaxed the health protocols, such as the masking-up policy in open places and social distancing, Indonesian Umrah pilgrims were found the most disciplined in observing these requirements, Latief noted.

“Indonesian pilgrims were the most disciplined because we always remind them to implement the health protocols,” he remarked.

Source: Antara News