Palembang's 433 Umrah pilgrims depart for Jeddah despite temporary ban

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Palembang's 433 Umrah pilgrims  depart for Jeddah despite temporary ban

Several umrah pilgrims from Palembang, capital of South Sumatra Province, prepared to depart for Jeddah on Thursday (Feb 27, 2020) (Foto : ANTARA/Aziz Munajar/20).

Palembang, S Sumatra (ANTARA) - A total of 433 umrah (minor haj) pilgrims from Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra Province, departed for the holy city of Mecca on Thursday despite Saudi Arabia's decision to temporarily halt Umrah pilgrimage services.

The pilgrims departed from the Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Airport in Palembang by boarding a charter flight of Lion Air's JT-112 at around 3:46 p.m. local time, Lion Air's Area Manager, Haris Pramono, stated.

"We have received clearance from the state-owned air navigation firm AirNav Indonesia to enable us to serve a direct flight. We are scheduled to arrive at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, at 9:15 p.m. local time," he remarked.

The umrah pilgrims, who departed for Jeddah on Thursday, came from four travel agents, he noted, adding that the chartered flight was initially scheduled to land at the Madinah airport, but it was then moved to Jeddah.

In addition to these 433 umrah pilgrims, other groups of umrah pilgrims also departed for Jeddah from Makassar, South Sulawesi Province, and the Soekarno Hatta International Airport on Thursday aboard Lion Air's aircraft, he revealed.

Pramono admitted to having received a letter from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Transportation notifying about the temporary ban on umrah pilgrims.

The letter stated that non-Saudi Arabian nationals, including umrah pilgrims and foreign tourists, who had traveled to Iran and other countries, with reported COVID-19 cases, are temporarily prevented from entering Saudi Arabia.

Over such ongoing concerns regarding the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Saudi Arabian Government has temporarily banned the inflow of foreign umrah pilgrims.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) stated in Jakarta that he respected the Saudi Arabian government's decision to prioritize its citizens' health and safety amid the spread of the coronavirus that continues to lead to rising number of casualties.

"We respect (the decision), as the Saudi Arabian government is prioritizing health," President Jokowi stated.

Jokowi confirmed the receipt of information on the temporary ban on Wednesday (Feb 27). He expounded that the suspension of Umrah pilgrimage services is not only applicable to Indonesia but also all countries.

"They want to protect their citizens from the coronavirus. We highly respect that," he remarked.

Saudi Arabia, where the Islamic Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina are located, is a destination for Muslims worldwide that are keen to perform Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.

According to a report released by the United Nations' World Health Organization as of February 25, 2020, globally, there are 81,109 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with the addition of 871 new cases, including 459 new cases in 37 countries outside China and 412 new cases in China.

Among the countries reporting confirmed COVID-19 cases are nations with Muslim-majority populations, including the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Oman, Egypt, and India.

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