News | MoH urged to clarify how umrah pilgrims left and returned without vaccine cert
KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has been urged to clarify its revelation recently that several umrah pilgrims who returned to the country with the Covid-19 Omicron variant did not have any vaccination records.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) vice president for Umrah and Haj Mohd Azri Abdul Razak said there were strict procedures that pilgrims must follow before the visa can be issued.
“At umrah agencies, before one can be issued with the visa, they must be fully vaccinated by vaccines that have been approved by Saudi Arabia, namely Pfizer and AstraZeneca, while Sinovac recipients must get the booster shot.
“For the purchase of flight tickets, to Jeddah for example, we must declare the vaccines used by umrah pilgrims.
“Also, we must key in all particulars via the Muqeem online portal (electronic registration of the vaccine) no less than 72 hours before flying into the Kingdom.
“At check-in, the ticketing officers will check on the visa, along with the Covid-19 test result, vaccine certificate and Muqeem printout before issuing a boarding pass.
“Upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, immigration will also check on the vaccination details.
“As such, the revelation is shocking given all the strict requirements in place. Therefore, we hope the ministry can provide further details on the matter,” he said when contacted.
He added the ministry should also call the industry players and clarify the matter.
“Should the revelation is found to be true, stern action including legal action must be taken to prevent it from happening again.
“This has tarnished the reputation of industry players (umrah agencies).”
Azri’s sentiment was echoed by Magna Bridge Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Helmi Daud who said umrah agencies had been following the existing strict procedures for umrah.
“I don’t think that we are that careless to jeopardise our reputation and business.
“However, among the public, there is now the perception that umrah travel agents are irresponsible, which is the last thing we want as it will affect our ‘periuk nasi’ (livelihood).
“While we welcome what (Health Minister) Khairy Jamaluddin has done to ensure everybody is safe, certain things must be looked at more thoroughly.
“As such, we hope the ministry can come out with further details on this revelation.”
Meanwhile, on the postponement of umrah for a month starting today, Helmi said he hopes that the Health Ministry can give the exact date when umrah can resume along with the SOPs.
The move, he said, would allow travel agents to better plan for umrah.
“This includes specific SOP such as pilgrims must undergo swab test upon their arrival to Malaysia at a certain fee and those tested positive must be quarantined at designated quarantine centres at a certain fee.
“By doing so, we can put in the additional costs while budgeting.
“Other SOP includes those who wished to perform umrah must do it via registered agents with the license for umrah.”
On Thursday, Khairy told a press conference that 17 out of 122 Omicron variant Covid-19 cases in the country did not have a vaccination history, with 12 of them among umrah pilgrims. – NST
by: Nor Ain Mohamed Radhi
credit photo: TheIndependent