Yaqut Cholil Qoumas made the statement to tender a clarification over the news of temporary suspension of the departure of Umrah pilgrims conveyed by the Directorate General of Hajj and Umrah Organizers of the Religious Affairs Ministry.
Qoumas cleared the air saying that there was a misperception on the announcement. The ministry will terminate the One Gate Policy (OGP) regulation and not the Umrah embarkation.
"There was no dismissal of the Umrah embarkation. Instead, we had terminated the OGP on January 15," Qoumas stated during a working meeting with Commission VIII of House of Representatives on Monday.
OGP is a centralized system established by the ministry for the departure of pilgrims. This rule applies to all Umrah pilgrims departing from the Soekarno-Hatta Airport and undergoing quarantine in Jakarta.
This policy also regulates health checks, PCR tests, vaccination status, immigration, quarantine, and other documents that are centrally managed.
Initially, the Directorate General of Hajj and Umrah Organizers will revoke the OGP departure scheme, as each region is deemed capable of conducting the departure of Umrah pilgrims.
However, the minister urged the related party to continue the OGP program as a form of protection for Umrah pilgrims. Thus, there was a misperception about stopping the departure of Umrah pilgrims.
Qoumas noted that the decision to not revoke the OGP program was due to a spike in Omicron cases, both in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
In fact, the Health Ministry remarked that citizens who returned from Saudi Arabia were one of the causal factors to the Omicron transmission rate in Indonesia.
In addition, dozens of advance teams that mapped and readied Umrah pilgrims in Saudi Arabia were exposed to COVID-19 after returning from the Holy Land. Qoumas took into account this factor to continue to apply the OGP program.
"It will be very risky if we allow people without the OGP procedure," he stated.
Director-General of Hajj and Umrah Organizers at the Ministry of Religious Affairs Hilman Latief had earlier stated that Umrah pilgrims will depart until January 15. Later, the ministry will evaluate the OGP scheme, including monitoring developments pertaining to the spread of the Omicron variant in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, and thus, the departure will be temporarily suspended.
"First, we will thoroughly review the OGP procedure by looking at the development in cases, especially since the Omicron virus is emerging in several countries, including in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Umrah pilgrims will depart until January 15, 2022, and we are trying to temporarily stop it for evaluation," he stated.