Indonesia to skip this year’s Hajj over coronavirus fears
June 03, 2021 20:07 184
JAKARTA: Indonesia announced on Thursday that its pilgrims will not participate in this year’s Hajj due to coronavirus fears.
Every year, Indonesians are the largest group coming to Saudi Arabia during the pilgrimage season. Some of them have to wait up to 20 years for their turn.
While last year the Kingdom did not accept pilgrims from abroad due to the pandemic, its Hajj quota for Indonesia was 231,000 in 2019. Saudi Arabia has yet to announce its guidelines and quotas for this year’s pilgrimage.
Indonesia’s government, which is grappling with the pandemic and the vaccination of its 276 million population, said it is prioritizing the safety of pilgrims in the wake of the spread of new COVID-19 variants in a number of countries.
“Due to the pandemic and for pilgrims’ safety, the government decided that this year it will not send Indonesian pilgrims,” said Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas.
“The Hajj pilgrimage is an event that involves a lot of people who are likely to form a crowd and consequently could trigger new COVID-19 (cases).”
He added that the decision was taken following consultations with lawmakers, Muslim scholars and leaders.
Abdul Kadir Jaelani, director general for Africa and the Asia / Pacific region at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, dismissed rumors that the cancelation was due to the coronavirus vaccine that the country is mostly relying on in its immunization drive.
China’s Sinovac vaccine was not among those that Saudi Arabia earlier announced it would accept in incoming pilgrims. The World Health Organization (WHO), however, approved its use on Tuesday.
“There is no problem with the vaccine, since the WHO has validated it for emergency use,” Jaelani told Arab News. “This cancelation is purely out of concern to protect ourselves from the outbreak.”