28 February 2020
More than 100 Malaysian and Indonesian umrah pilgrims are stranded at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) following Saudi Arabia’s decision to suspend the entry of foreign nationals, as part of efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.
A pilgrim from Kedah, Mohd Fadzil Osman, 49, said he and 39 other pilgrims from Sungai Petani and Alor Setar, Kedah arrived at KLIA at 6am Thursday (Feb 27) morning and were due to depart on Saudi Airlines at 4.40pm.
He and his wife Norharisah Harun, 47, who were both supposed to perform the umrah for the first time, said they only learned of the Saudi government’s decision at 9am.
“At that time, we were informed that the decision had not been finalised, so we waited but it was only after 1pm that it was confirmed that we could not fly.
“Some of us had already checked in for the flight,” he told Bernama.
Mohd Fadzil said since they had travelled to KLIA by bus, they would have to wait until 1am tomorrow for the bus to return to KLIA.
Although disappointed by the turn of events, he accepted it as fate.
Another pilgrim, Rohani Abdul Rahman, 57, is hoping that the Covid-19 outbreak will be resolved as soon as possible.
“It took us six months to make our preparations. We did not expect the trip to be cancelled at the eleventh hour. It is sad, but we accept it,” she said.
Indonesian pilgrim Muhammad Jamil Arfah, 28, said he and 23 other pilgrims arrived at KLIA from Makassar at 3pm to transit before boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia.
“Our flight was supposed to be at 9pm tonight, but it was cancelled. We are currently waiting for a decision on whether to return (to Makassar) or whether we can still fly to Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Saudi Arabia had announced a temporary suspension of visits by pilgrims to the Nabawi Mosque as a proactive, precautionary measure to curb the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak, its foreign ministry said on Wednesday (Feb 26).
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that the government of Saudi Arabia had also temporarily suspended the entry of visitors from countries affected by Covid-19, who were travelling with tourist visas.
Wisma Putra in a statement also advised Malaysians to delay their travel to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimages and tourism, following the suspension announced by the country’s authorities.