Malaysia suspends sale of Umrah plane tickets after 1,161 returnees test positive in past two weeks
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced new travel restrictions for Umrah in Saudi Arabia following a wave of new imported cases of COVID-19 into the country. It has been revealed that travelers returning from Saudi Arabia have the highest COVID-19 positivity rate and that there are 9 groups associated with Umrah travel.
As of December 30, 2021, a total of 1,306 of Umrah’s 11,108 travelers have been found positive, which equates to a positivity rate of 11.76%. According to the figure, 592 cases were detected during the first COVID-19 test on arrival, and 714 cases were detected during the second COVID-19 test during the 5th day of quarantine.
As of today, the Malaysian government is suspending the sale of Umrah tickets from today, January 1, 2022. Umrah travel to Saudi Arabia is not permitted from January 8, 2022. until further notice. Following reports that some travelers did not adhere to the home quarantine SOP, all travelers returning from their Umrah must be quarantined at a quarantine station or designated hotel from January 3, 2022.
For now, people with existing Umrah travel plans from January 1-7, 2022 are allowed to continue their trip, but cannot opt for home quarantine. Upon their return, they must be quarantined in designated quarantine centers and hotels.
According to the Ministry of Health, Malaysia recorded a total of 2,763 imported cases of COVID-19 between January 1 and December 30, 2021. Travelers returning from Saudi Arabia recorded the most positive cases with 1,446, followed by Singapore with 322 cases, Indonesia with 264 cases and the United Kingdom with 217 cases.
In the past two weeks alone, there have been 1,161 positive cases among returnees from Saudi Arabia. For comparison, there were 49 imported cases of travelers returning from the UK, 13 from Singapore and 8 from Indonesia. Malaysia has identified a total of 9 clusters related to Umrah’s journey and 5 index cases involved with the Omicron variant. There is one cluster involving an index case with suspected Omicron and three clusters involving non-Omicron variants.
According to Khairy’s statement, Umrah involves a large-scale gathering that includes participants from various countries. This poses a high risk of infections, including Omicron. He added that the situation made it difficult for the participants to adhere to the SOP which was set by the Malaysian government.
As recently announced, all people returning from Umrah and high risk countries are required to wear digital trackers which are installed upon arrival. A total of twenty counters and forty staff members have been assigned to the KLIA satellite building to help set up the trackers on arrival. The total time required for medical screening and wearing the devices would take approximately one hour and 20 minutes.
Last week, Malaysia and Singapore both suspended the sale of plane and bus tickets for Vaccinated Travel Lane after the detection of a local Omicron cluster in Singapore. The suspension went into effect on December 23, 2021, and sales could resume from January 21, 2022 after a risk assessment was conducted based on the COVID-19 situation.
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