KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — The Health Ministry (MoH) and the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac) today pledged to finalise “risk assessment processes and standard operating procedures (SOPs)” for umrah travel by mid-February.

In a joint statement, both ministries said that this would be key in outlining a timeline for reopening travel for the minor Muslim pilgrimage that has been suspended since January 2.

“The government is very concerned with the various challenges faced by national tourism industry players.

“As such, both ministries hope that all industry players can give their full cooperation to ensure that umrah activities can continue with safety,” read the statement.

The ministries said they had a meeting with umrah tour operator groups today, and will study the views of the industry players before proposing possible improvements in the next Covid-19 quartet ministers’ meeting.

The meeting involved Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) and the Immigration Department.

They added that among the issues raised by umrah tour operators at this afternoon’s discussion were SOPs related to umrah travel implementation, refund issues, flight rescheduling, insurance coverage, the timeline to reopening umrah travel and rehabilitation assistance for the tourism industry.

The government suspended umrah travel from January 2 in a move to slow down the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, despite pleas from umrah tour operators to not take away their business.

This was after the Muslim religious pilgrimage was allowed to resume on October 18 last year.