Minister of Religious Affairs requests COVID-19 vaccination priority for 257,540 hajj pilgrims in 2021

Minister of Religious Affairs Yaqut Cholil Qoumas. (Photo: Wikipedia)

IO – Minister of Religious Affairs Yaqut Cholil Qoumas is taking part in a joint Work Meeting with the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR RI”) as his first Work Meeting since he was appointed by President Jokowi on 23 December 2020.

In the meeting, Minister Yaqut explains his policies in relation with the effort to revitalize the management of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. There  are  three  key  issues  to  the revitalization: “First, better service management and bureaucratic governance. This includes the organizing of hajj and umrah, the management of religious education and affairs, and the management of religious service centers. Second, strengthening religious moderation, emphasizing the strengthening of religious literacy, a culture of tolerance and national values. Third, brotherhood, which is the brotherhood between adherents of the same faith, between citizens of the same nation and homeland, and finally expanding to the brotherhood of humanity,” he said on Monday (18/01/2021).

The Minister went on to say that the Ministry of Religious Affairs continues its efforts to organize hajj travels in 2021. If the plan goes through, the first batch will leave on 15 June 2021. As part of their preparation, the Minister of Religious Affairs corresponds with the Minister of Health for assistance in organizing health protection support for Indonesia’s hajj pilgrims. “In order to provide and ensure their protection, we have corresponded with the Minister of Health to request that the hajj pilgrims who are leaving for their holy pilgrimage in the year of 1442 Hegira/2021 Christian Era be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination,” Yaqut said in his written statement on Tuesday, 19 January 2021.

Yaqut went on to elaborate the considerations  why  hajj  pilgrims leaving  in  2021  should  be  prioritized. First, to prevent them from being  rejected  by  Saudi  Arabian authorities. Second, if pilgrims are not  vaccinated,  the  Government will need to allocate special time, place,  and  cost  for  quarantining them before their departure to, and after their arrival in, Saudi Arabia.

Third, if they are not yet vaccinated, pilgrims must undergo the PCR swab  test  and  quarantine  before their departure and after their arrival. “However, whether they are vaccinated or not, physical distancing and disinfection must be performed when embarking, during the flight, and during their stay in Saudi Arabia, and also embarking, during the flight, and the moment they arrived back home,” he said.

Yaqut  said  that  vaccination for  normal  hajj  quota  must  be performed  on  257,540  pilgrims: 221,000  regular  and  special  pilgrims; 4,200 staff and officials attached to the batches and not attached but interacting with them; 3,400 hajj officials in all our provinces; 18,000 hajj guides in 2021 located in 6,000 District Religious Affairs Offices throughout Indonesia; and 10,940 manasik committee members and staff in 547 Regencies and Municipalities in Indonesia. “We are still waiting for the Minister of Health’s response. We hope that this is doable, specifically after Saudi Arabia confirms the execution and quota for hajj in 1442 H/2021 CE,” he said.

In order to ensure the smoothness  of  hajj  pilgrims’  departure, Commission  VIII  of  the  House  of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Republic Indonesia – “DPR RI”) and the Ministry of Religious Affairs have agreed to form a joint Task Force for the Costs of Organizing Ibadah Hajj 2021 for 1442 H/2021 CE, according to the Commission’s Vice Chairman, Ace Hasan Syadzily, when he led a work meeting in the Parliamentary Building, Jakarta, on Tuesday 19 January 2021.

Minister  of  Religious  Affairs Yaqut also stated that the Ministry is designing three anticipatory schemes for this year’s hajj. They are: Organizing hajj for Indonesia with full quota, with limited quota, and no pilgrimage whatsoever. “These three schemes are the Government’s effort to organize hajj pilgrimage this year. Whether or not we will have pilgrimage this year, in the end entirely depends on the Saudi Government,” he said.

To conform whether  hajj 2021 can be organized or not, the Minister of Religious Affairs communicates with the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia for Indonesia, the Saudi Ministry Hajj and Umrah, the Muassasah (Hajj Services Office) for Southeast Asia, Saudi airlines, Saudi Immigration Office, and other relevant parties. “Despite this coordination, we still have not obtained info as for whether Saudi Arabia will open its doors to hajj pilgrimage in the year 1442 H/2021 CE,” he said.”