PETALING JAYA: Umrah pilgrimages for Malaysians will be temporarily suspended from January 8 while returning pilgrims will be subject to mandatory quarantine at designated centres from Monday (Jan 3), says Khairy Jamaluddin (pic).
The Health Minister said the decision was made due to concerns over the Covid-19 Omicron variant.
He added that ticket sales for new umrah pilgrimages would be suspended starting Saturday (Jan 1).
“There will be no travel for umrah purposes allowed after Jan 7 until a new date is announced in the future.
“Bookings for new umrah flight tickets are also suspended with effect from today.
“Umrah pilgrims returning to Malaysia will have to observe mandatory quarantine at quarantine stations or hotels identified by the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) from Monday (Jan 3),” he said at a press conference Saturday.
Pilgrims departing for Saudi Arabia between Jan 1 to 7 will be allowed to proceed but will have to undergo quarantine at designated stations or hotels upon return to Malaysia.
“The temporary postponement of umrah activities is expected to help reduce the risk of Omicron transmission in the country and slow the increase of Covid-19 cases,” he said.
As of Dec 31, 2021, there were a total of 64 confirmed Omicron cases, of which a total of 32 cases, or 50%, were detected among umrah pilgrims, said Khairy, adding that there were also nine clusters involving pilgrims as of Dec 30, 2021.
The Institute for Medical Research (IMR) has also conducted PCR Genotyping Assay on 1,077 positive Covid-19 cases among returning travelers from Dec 21 to Dec 29 last year, of which 966 samples were classified as possible (presumptive) Omicron cases, said Khairy.
Of the 966 samples, 750 or 77.6% involved travelers arriving from Saudi Arabia and the Health Ministry is still awaiting results for their whole genome sequencing (WGS) to confirm if they are Omicron cases.
“The suspension of Umrah activities for Malaysians is hoped to provide space for the government to make careful planning and preparation in the management of Umrah pilgrims before Umrah activities can be allowed again,” said Khairy.