Malaysia cancels Hajj for this year amid pandemic

Malaysia cancels Hajj for  this year amid pandemic
Malaysian Hajj pilgrims gather in training days before their departure for Saudi Arabia in this June 30, 2018 file photo. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 12 June 2020

Malaysia cancels Hajj for this year amid pandemic

Malaysia cancels Hajj for  this year amid pandemic
  • Hajj was postponed on account of the safety, health and well-being of Malaysians

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is not sending Hajj pilgrims to Makkah this year in light of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s Hajj starts around July  28 and the country was due to send about 31,600 pilgrims.

The decision to cancel was based on consultations with the Health Ministry of Malaysia and the Malaysian Hajj Pilgrims’ Fund Board (Tabung Haji), as well as with members of a special meeting of the Committee of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia that took place on June 9.

“The pilgrimage for all Malaysians for the Hajj season of Hijrah 1441 is postponed to next year,” Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, a minister in the prime minister’s office, said on Thursday at a press conference.

Al-Bakri said that the Hajj postponement to 2021 was made after taking into consideration the safety, health and well-being of Malaysians. Those with a furada visa —  a Hajj visa obtained directly from Saudi Arabia’s embassy — were also not allowed to go for Hajj this year.

BACKGROUND

The pandemic has caused a serious global health crisis. Coronavirus has infected 7.4 million people worldwide and resulted in more than 418,000 deaths. Malaysia has taken strict measures in curbing the spread of coronavirus, including enacting the Movement Control Order since March 16 and conducting mass testings for COVID-19 among migrant workers and refugees.

The pandemic has caused a serious global health crisis. Coronavirus has infected 7.4 million people worldwide and resulted in more than 418,000 deaths.

“Yesterday I invited and met with the Saudi Ambassador to Malaysia and handed the official letter of Hajj postponement for Malaysia to be presented to Dr. Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Benten, minister of Hajj and Umrah for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Malaysia has followed its Southeast Asia neighbors Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and Brunei in canceling the Hajj pilgrimage for this year.

Malaysia has taken strict measures in curbing the spread of coronavirus, including enacting the Movement Control Order since March 16 and conducting mass testings for COVID-19 among migrant workers and refugees.

As a result Malaysia has managed to reduce new cases. It currently has a total of 8,369 cases, of which 7,065 have recovered.

Malaysia has gradually allowed most businesses and places of worship, including mosques, to open with strict observations of social distancing measures and guidelines.


Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive

Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive
A medical worker inoculates a colleague with a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at the north central railway hospital in Allahabad on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2021

Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive

Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive
  • Only half of the government’s target has been inoculated

NEW DELHI: The world’s biggest vaccination drive to inoculate 1.3 billion people against the coronavirus is slowing down in India as concerns over safety fuel vaccine hesitancy, especially among health workers.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the campaign on Jan. 16, with 30 million frontline health care workers the first to get the jab. A week into the drive, however, Health Ministry data suggest that on average only 150,000 people have been inoculated a day — half of the government’s target.
“There is a general hesitancy among healthcare workers, particularly doctors, about the efficacy of the vaccines,” Adarsh Pratap Singh, president of the Resident Doctors Association of the premier Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told Arab News on Friday.
Two coronavirus vaccines have been approved for emergency use in India: the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced domestically as Covishield by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, and a locally developed vaccine called Covaxin, produced by Indian company Bharat Biotech, which is still in its trial stage and has no final data on its efficacy.
“Lack of transparency is at the core of vaccine hesitancy,” Dr. Nirmalya Mohapatra of Delhi-based Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, told Arab News.
“We doctors should have jointly taken up the issue and asked the government to demonstrate more transparency in introducing the vaccine,” he said.
Mohapatra was one of the doctors who on Jan. 16 refused to take a Covaxin shot at his hospital.
Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum (PMSF) president, Dr. Harjit Singh Bhattialso, says that the absence of data is fueling “fear about the vaccination” among members of the medical community.
 Concerns also exist about the Covishield vaccine.

FASTFACT

Instead of digital campaigns, some doctors say that Indian leaders themselves should get the jabs to inspire trust in vaccination.

“Even there is hesitancy about Covishied. There is no enthusiasm for it. However, people will prefer Covishied over Covaxin,” Bhatti said.
In response to vaccine hesitancy, Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Thursday launched an information campaign to address what he said were “rumors and misinformation.”
“We have launched a digital media package with impactful messages from key technical experts from the country who have taken COVID-19 vaccine,” Vardhan told reporters.
The messages, he said, are that “vaccines are safe and efficacious,” and cover the “critical role of vaccines in controlling the pandemic.”
But instead of digital campaigns, some doctors say that Indian leaders themselves should get the jabs to inspire trust in vaccination.
“If the Indian PM Narendra Modi and other political high-ups take the vaccine then it will have a huge impact,” Singh said. “There is a lack of political consensus on vaccines. To inspire confidence all the state chief ministers should also take the shot.”
According to media reports, Modi may get vaccinated in the second phase of the campaign, in March or April, when 270 million people above the age of 50 will be inoculated.
Other health experts argue, however, that vaccinating leaders is not a substitute for scientific processes.
“Leadership taking the vaccine is more of a tokenism than coming out clean on the efficacy and the actual and effective profile of the vaccine,” said Amar Jesani, a Mumbai-based health expert and editor of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics.
“What is tragic is that our PM might be ready to take the risk of vaccination (but) he is not ready to offend the companies, which are sitting on the data. Why can’t they make the data public? This is what the doctors are asking for,” he told Arab News.
In the absence of scientific data, he argued, people with underlying health problems would be hesitant to get vaccinated when the immunization campaign reaches the general public.
“When you are not transparent today, then tomorrow comorbid people will be hesitant and then the general population will be reluctant,” he said.