100 umrah pilgrims stranded at KLIA after Saudi Arabia suspends entry

Some of the umrah pilgrims stranded at KLIA last night after Saudi Arabia suspended the entry of foreigners to curb the spread of Covid-19. (Bernama pic)

SEPANG: More than 100 Malaysian and Indonesian umrah pilgrims were stranded at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) yesterday following a decision by the Saudi Arabian government to suspend the entry of foreign nationals to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Saudi Arabia had announced a temporary suspension of visits by pilgrims to the Nabawi Mosque as a proactive, precautionary measure to curb the spread of Covid-19, its foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said the government had also temporarily suspended the entry of visitors from countries affected by the Covid-19 outbreak travelling with tourist visas.

Wisma Putra has advised Malaysians to delay their travel to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimages and tourism.

Mohd Fadzil Osman, 49, said he and 39 other pilgrims from Sungai Petani and Alor Star in Kedah had arrived at KLIA yesterday morning and were due to leave on Saudi Airlines at 4.40pm.

He said he and his wife Norharisah Harun, 47, who were going to perform the umrah for the first time, only learned of the Saudi government’s decision at 9am, and it was only after 1pm that it was confirmed that they could not fly.

“Some of us had already checked in for the flight,” he told Bernama last night.

Another pilgrim, Rohani Abdul Rahman, 57, said: “It took us six months to prepare for the umrah. We did not expect the trip to be cancelled at the eleventh hour. It is sad, but we accept it.”

Indonesian pilgrim Muhammad Jamil Arfah, 28, said he and 23 other pilgrims arrived at KLIA from Makassar at 3pm to transit before boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia.

“Our flight was supposed to be at 9pm but it was cancelled. We are waiting for a decision on whether to return to Makassar or whether we can still fly to Saudi Arabia,” he said.