Jakarta: The Religious Affairs Ministry has suspended the departures of umrah pilgrims starting from January 15, to give authorities time to evaluate the One Gate Policy (OGP) scheme, and to monitor the Omicron variant transmission in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
"We are evaluating the OGP concept thoroughly by considering the current development as the Omicron variant continues to spread in many countries, including Indonesia and Saudi Arabia," the ministry's Director General of Hajj and Umrah Hilman said in a statement here on Sunday.
The government has started to embark the umrah pilgrims on January 8, 2022. As many as 1,731 pilgrims had departed since then, through Pondok Gede hajj dormitory in Jakarta.
Under the OGP scheme, all umrah pilgrims arrived at Pondok Gede hajj dormitory are required to pass health screening and document checking.
The umrah pilgrims who had departed on January 8 are scheduled to arrive in Indonesia on January 17, and the ministry would check possible transmission of Omicron among the pilgrims.
"The departures of the umrah pilgrims have continued until January 15 and we shall stop them temporarily for evaluation," he remarked.
According to Hilman, an umrah pilgrimage is similar to other international travels.Travel agents play dominant role in organizing the pilgrimage while the ministry only facilitates preparation for pilgrims' departures.
They are unlike the hajj pilgrimage where the government takes part in controlling the procedures and hajj pilgrimage process.
Hilman said the ministry would decide whether it would continue or halt the umrah pilgrimage after completing the evaluation, conducted in coordination with related ministries.
"We only encourage the PPIU (umrah travel agent) not to dispatch a large group of pilgrims. We shall soon announce the result of the evaluation. The open-and-close mechanism is applied on account of the development of Omicron cases both in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia," Hilman said.
The Religious Affairs Ministry embarked 419 people to perform Umrah on January 8, marking Indonesia's foremost Umrah departure after two years since the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The initial plan for the Umrah departure had been set for December 2021. However, the ministry postponed the plan due to the COVID-19 situation in the country at the end of 2021.
Preparations for the Umrah departure were made through collaboration among the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Law and Human Rights, COVID-19 Task Force, Airport Authority, and the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).