Wisma Putra said Saudi Arabia had temporarily suspended entry for umrah pilgrimage and visits to Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina as part of its measures to prevent a Covid-19 outbreak.
Entry into the kingdom with a tourist visa from countries with confirmed Covid-19 cases according to criteria established by the Saudi Arabian health authorities had also been temporarily suspended, it said.
The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Kuala Lumpur said Malaysia, which had 22 confirmed Covid-19 cases, is among the countries affected by the suspension.
“The Saudi government stresses that the measures are temporary and subject to continuous evaluation by their authorities,” said Wisma Putra in a statement yesterday.It added that Wisma Putra, the Malaysian Embassy in Riyadh and the Malaysian Consulate General in Jeddah would continue to communicate with Saudi authorities to get more details on the implementation of the temporary suspension.
Malaysians in Saudi Arabia who need consular help are also advised to contact the Malaysian Embassy or the Malaysian Consulate General.
“Entry to the Kingdom with a tourist visa from countries with confirmed coronavirus outbreaks, according to criteria established by the Saudi health authorities, is temporarily suspended,” Saudi’s Foreign Ministry announced on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has appealed to Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah to intervene.
“On behalf of Muslims in the country, we appeal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the Head of Islam to hold discussions with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Abdulaziz al-Saud to reconsider the suspension for the good of the faithful worldwide.
“The suspension will prevent Muslims here from performing the pilgrimage and we hope the suspension is temporary and is lifted as soon as possible,” its deputy president Mohd Akil Md Yusof said at a press conference.
He said the suspension came as a shock to tour operators and Muslims in Malaysia.
“There are five direct flights daily to Medina and Jeddah and from what we know, only one managed to get through just before the suspension came into effect,” he added.
Mohd Akil said about 270,000 Malaysians performed the umrah every year and the suspension would affect about 100,000 who had registered to go this year.
It was reported that last year, more than seven million people from all over the world performed the umrah.
Flights carrying umrah pilgrims from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia were operating as usual as of 2pm yesterday.
Malaysian Association of Bumiputera Tours and Travel Agents deputy president Harun KC Ahmmu said information obtained from several travel and umrah agencies under the association revealed that pilgrims were still allowed to enter Saudi Arabia.
“Everything is still going on as usual and all pilgrims with visas are allowed to depart from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport,” he said.
However, Harun claimed that the online umrah and visa registration system was blocked by the Saudi government yesterday.
“The registration system has been blocked since early morning. For pilgrims who have obtained visas, we do not know what the actual situation is.
“If the Malaysian pilgrim visa is suspended, many companies will be affected.
“We hope the Saudi government will find the best solution for this matter,” he added.