Indonesia will not be sending its pilgrims to the haj this year, minister of religious affairs Yaqut Cholil Quomas said on Thursday (June 3).
This will be the second year in a row the government has decided not to send Indonesian pilgrims because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Due to the ongoing pandemic and for the safety of the pilgrims, the government has decided that it will not send Indonesian haj pilgrims this year," the minister said.
Yaqut explained that Law No. 8 of 2019 on the implementation of haj and umrah gives the government the mandate to protect the people.
“Moreover, this year there is also the spread of a new variant of COVID-19 that is developing in a number of countries," he added.
The ministry of religious affairs studied the possibility of sending Indonesians to the haj this year, based on different scenarios of reduced numbers of pilgrims.
The minister told Salaam Gateway earlier this week that it was "too late" to secure all neccesary arrangements, including accomodation, flights and transportation.
The haj starts in around 45 days, on Dhul hijjah 8 that corresponds to around July 18.
Yaqut said on Thursday the arrangements for Indonesia's pilgrims can only be confirmed in a memorandum of understanding with Saudi authorities, who have not initiated the process.
Pilgrims would also need to comply with COVID health and precautionary measures that would require arrangements above and beyond the regular haj.
Saudi authorities have indicated that they are making arrangements for the haj to happen this year with strict safety measures in place. However, they have not formally made an announcement of how this year's haj will go on and how many pilgrims will be allowed from overseas.
The haj last year was open to a very small number of pilgrims who were already resident in Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom kept its borders closed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Indonesia's haj quota for 2019, the last year before the pandemic, was 221,000. The country sends the largest contingent as the nation with the most number of Muslims.
2.49 million pilrims performed the haj in 2019, 1.86 million of whom came from outside Saudi Arabia.
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