Jakarta. The government has decided to cancel the hajj trip this year – for which hundreds of thousands of Indonesians have waited for years – over concerns about the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
“Until today, Saudi Arabia has not reopened the hajj trip for any country,” Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi said in a televised statement on Tuesday.
“The government has now decided to cancel the hajj trip for 2020. This is truly a difficult decision for us to make and we know many people are upset,” Fachrul said.
The Indonesian government said last month it would cancel the hajj trip if Saudi Arabia had not made a decision to allow the season to go ahead by May 20.
This year’s hajj season was supposed to begin on July 22.
Saudi Arabia is among the top 20 countries with the most number of Covid-19 cases in the world after registering 87,142 cases.
There was an option to send younger and healthy pilgrims to Mecca and keep those more at risk of contracting the coronavirus – the elderly and people with underlying illnesses – at home to wait for another year.
But this option has now been scrapped because the government would not have time to prepare the trip even if the Saudi government eventually decided to reopen Mecca.
The Saudi Hajj and Umrah Ministry has imposed a temporary ban on the umrah or minor hajj since February.
While the kingdom might be easing some of its Covid-19 restrictions, the umrah ban was still in effect, according to a report from Gulf News last week.
Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, is currently one of Asia’s coronavirus pandemic hotspots.
The country has registered a total of 26,940 confirmed cases by Monday, with 1,641 deaths and 7,637 recoveries.
Indonesia was given a “hajj quota” of 221,000 pilgrims for the hajj season this year – the largest quota given to a single country.
Last year, Saudi Arabia welcomed a total of 2.5 million pilgrims for the hajj.
Other countries that have also canceled their hajj trips this year include Singapore, which was given a quota of 900 pilgrims.
Indonesian Muslims pay a government-regulated fee of between Rp 31 million and Rp 39 million ($2,100–$2,700) to go on the hajj trip.
The government said it was lobbying the Saudi government to refund this year’s pilgrims or allow them to go on the hajj next year.