Srinagar: Pilgrims of Kashmir have to wait for some more time as local Hajj operators have decided to start Umrah bookings only after direct flights resume between India and Saudi Arabia.
The decision comes a day after the Kingdom announced to allow foreign pilgrim’s to perform Umrah from 1st Muharram (August 10, 2021).
While the pilgrims from India are presently required to undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days in a ‘third country’ before arriving in Saudi Arabia, the local operators say the cost of undertaking a pilgrimage at this point of time would increase four times.
The operators are hopeful that Saudi Arabia will allow direct flights towards the end of the current year after which pilgrims from Kashmir valley would be able to embark on the holy pilgrimage.
“As per the guidelines issued by Saudi Arabia yesterday, pilgrims from India will have to be placed under quarantine for 14 days before being allowed to perform Umrah. Dubai has already refused entry to Indian pilgrims and it means pilgrims will have to be placed under quarantine at places like Tashkent or Russia first for two weeks. An Umrah package that would cost one lakh rupees before, will now cost four lakh rup.ees underefore, it will not be feasible to resume Umrah services from here as of now,” J&K Association of Hajj and Umrah Companies (JKAHUC) president Sheikh Feroz Ahmad told The Kashmir Monitor.
He said they were hopeful that direct flights would be allowed by November or December.
“Based on the inputs that we have received, we are hopeful that the Saudi government will allow direct flights later this year from November or December after which we would be able to resume Umrah services,” he said.
After the easing of Covid lockdown, Umrah for Saudi citizens and residents in the Kingdom had begun again from July 25.
Now, Saudi has allowed direct Umrah flights for foreigners barring those of nine countries including India from August 10.
“All countries allowed to send direct flights except for nine countries which are India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Lebanon which require quarantine of 14 days in a third country before arriving in the Kingdom,” a notification by the Saudi government had stated yesterday.
Pertinently, Covaxin does not figure in the list of approved vaccines for intending Umrah pilgrims.
“Mandatory requirement of being vaccinated against COVID-19 with complete doses of either Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or J&J,” the notification said.