Indonesia rules out Hajj for its citizens over Covid-19

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on travellers but still has quarantine measures in place

Worshippers pray at the Grand Mosque during Hajj in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in 2019. Reuters
Worshippers pray at the Grand Mosque during Hajj in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in 2019. Reuters

Indonesia cancelled the Hajj pilgrimage for people in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation for the second year in a row over concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic, the religious affairs minister said on Thursday.

For many Indonesians, the religious pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime event, with an average wait time of 20 years because of a quota system, according to the country's Cabinet secretariat.

"Due to the pandemic and for the safety of the pilgrims, the government has decided that this year it won't allow Indonesian pilgrims to go again," government minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said.

Mr Yaqut said Saudi Arabia had not opened access to the Hajj.

"It's not just Indonesia ... no countries have received quotas, because the memorandum of understanding has not been signed," he said. Pilgrims who had paid Hajj fees will be pilgrims next year, he said.

Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on travellers arriving from 11 countries that it brought in to curb the spread of coronavirus, the Saudi state news agency said on Saturday, but will still require quarantine procedures.

Before the pandemic, about 2.5 million pilgrims used to visit the holiest sites of Islam in Makkah and Madinah for the week-long Hajj and the year-round Umrah pilgrimage, which together earned the kingdom about $12 billion a year, according to official data.

Last year, however, just 1,000 people who were already in the country were allowed to take part in a socially distanced Hajj.

Updated: June 3, 2021 02:15 PM

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