PUTRAJAYA, Jan 29 — The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) said the new standard operating procedure (SOP) for umrah travel has been refined with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) and would be brought to a quartet meeting for approval.

MOTAC said the SOP was a guide to curb the spread of Covid-19 while performing umrah activities by focusing on, among others, for the pilgrims to be covered by insurance that provides health coverage, including treatment, isolation and quarantine requirements for Covid-19 infection while in Saudi Arabia and on return to Malaysia.

In addition, the SOP also ensures pilgrims are fully vaccinated and making compulsory for pilgrims to take the booster jabs for their safety as well as holding the umrah operator responsible for informing the pilgrims on the responsibilities, procedures, liabilities and instructions throughout the pilgrimage.

MOTAC in a statement today said the process of finalising the new SOP had taken into account the interests of all parties holistically, including balancing umrah activities with the implementation of stricter health and safety protocols to protect Malaysians in the Holy Land and also when they return home.

It said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri hoped the decision would be welcomed by companies handling the umrah pilgrimage and Malaysian families and reminded all parties to abide by the new SOP.

MOTAC said the Cabinet, at its meeting on Jan 26, agreed to-allow Muslims in the country to resume the umrah pilgrimage starting Feb 8 after temporarily suspending it following the transmission of the Omicron Covid-19 variant among returning pilgrims.

It was also suspended was to provide space for government agencies and all parties involved to evaluate and improve the SOP for umrah.

MOTAC said a total of eight engagement sessions was held since December last year between its minister and umrah companies such as the Malaysian Association of Bumiputera Tourism Operating Companies Malaysia (BUMITRA), Association of Umrah and Haj Travel Agencies (PAPUH) and the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA). — Bernama