4 January 2022
The authorities should allow Umrah pilgrims returning from Makkah who test negative for Covid-19 to undergo quarantine at home.
Magna Bridge Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Helmi Daud said the swab test procedure upon arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) should help the authorities to isolate who test positive at government-run quarantine centres.
“Returnees from Makkah can do the swab test and wait for their tests results. If negative, they should be allowed to undergo the (mandatory) quarantine at home.
“Therefore, the government can subsidise the PCR tests that our clients are ready to undergo instead of forking out more expenses for quarantine centres.
“Before departing to Malaysia, we also did the PCR test since we would need proof of negative results before boarding. And, if anyone violates the home quarantine they should be penalised accordingly,” he said.
Upon arriving at KLIA recently from Makkah, Helmi said the airport was crowded with others arriving from abroad and physical distancing was not observed properly.
“There were authorities present, but the place was too congested and crowded with travellers from all over the world, which is another risk of Covid-19 infection waiting to happen.
“It was the same when waiting for our turn for the swab test where the holding room could only accommodate 20 people at a time and there were almost 300 of us waiting,” he said.
Helmi added that Malaysian pilgrims were among the disciplined ones in adhering to the Covid-19 standard operating procedures including physical distancing and mask wearing in Saudi Arabia.
On this note, he urged the government to review the temporary travel ban to Saudi Arabia for Umrah and suggested authorities limit the number of pilgrims to 30 people for each travel agency instead.
“People have to postpone their religious duties. Fair enough, we understand what Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s concerns were, but there are other countries with Omicron risk, but no travel ban has been imposed on these destinations.
“Perhaps, only those who are fit can travel (to Makkah) and not the high-risk and vulnerable groups for now.
“Even in Saudi, there are similar applications like MySejahtera for pilgrims to use. So, the SOP continues as usual. I hope the prime minister can consider this,” he told the New Straits Times when contacted.
Earlier today, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Special Functions) Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad announced that the government would cover the quarantine expenses for Umrah pilgrims who chose quarantine centres run by the government and privately-run centres listed by the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) upon their return home.
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