KUALA LUMPUR – The Covid-19 cases in the country could leap to more than 15,000 cases per day in January and February.
Therefore, Minister of Health Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said that the Ministry of Health (MOH) had to temporary defer the umrah pilgrimage travel as a precautionary measure to avoid the increment of Covid-19 positive cases, especially the Omicron variant.
At the same time, travel deferment also provides room for the MOH to tighten the standard operating procedures (SOP) for umrah travel.
He said, the SOP could encompass booster dose as the main criteria for umrah pilgrims. Besides that, close contacts to Covid-19 positive cases also need to be isolated before being allowed to return to Malaysia.
Khairy Jamaluddin said, discussions with the Saudi Arabian government will be made soon on the SOP of umrah pilgrims.
“In Saudi Arabia, only those who are tested positive of Covid-19 in the pre-departure test are not allowed to come back, meanwhile, the close contacts are allowed to board the flight.
“MOH and relevant agencies would update the umrah SOP, including taking booster dose, management of close contacts, health monitoring, enhancing the responsibility of agencies that need to report positive cases to the MOH in Malaysia, including the close contacts,” he said.
Khairy said, several Omicron variant clusters have emerged due to the failure of travellers, especially the umrah pilgrims in adhering to the home-quarantine SOP. The clusters include, Keratong 5 Cluster with two index cases returning from Saudi Arabia which caused three generations of infection.
“An example of cluster had spread in Rompin, Pahang. Two imported cases from Saudi Arabia. This cluster caused 28 positive cases in three generations. The first contact was their family in Rompin, the second generation was 15 others and it reached Mersing. The third generation affected seven individuals in Mersing.
“This is an example of how those who returned and did home-quarantine and caused infections to their family members and spread to three generations.
“This is why we stop home quarantine for umrah pilgrims as a preventive measure. We have decided for them to undergo quarantine at private or government quarantine centres starting from 8 January,” he said, stating that he understood that the deferment of umrah pilgrimage has become a hot issue since the announcement on 1 January.
Felda Keratong 5 in Rompin District, Pahang, have been put on Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) for the second time beginning today.
The targeted movement control was made following the Keratong 5 Saudi Cluster. -MalaysiaGazette