The first batches of haj pilgrims departed from a number of embarkation points on Tuesday.
From the Surakarta embarkation point in Central Java, 1,122 pilgrims divided into three flights at Adisumarmo International Airport departed.
Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo officially sent off the pilgrims at the Donohudan Haj Dormitory in neighboring Boyolali regency.
Ganjar called on the pilgrims not to be too concerned with the spread of the corona virus, or MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
“There is no need to be afraid of the virus,” said Ganjar, adding the meningitis vaccine the pilgrims had already received and a healthy lifestyle during their stay in the holy land would see them avoid contracting the virus.
The pilgrims departing on Tuesday were from Tegal. Initially, there were 1,125 pilgrims departing but three failed to go because of sickness.
A total of 26,554 pilgrims from Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces will depart from the Surakarta embarkation point this year. The figure is smaller than last year’s 29,547 pilgrims.
“The decrease is due to the 20 percent reduction in pilgrim quotas as requested by the Saudi Arabian government,” Surakarta Haj Management Committee (PPIH) spokesman Badrus Salam said.
He was referring to a quota decrease due to unfinished renovation works at Masjidil Haram Mosque.
Separately, the head of the haj and umrah management division at the Surakarta office of the Religious Affairs Ministry, Rosyid Ali, said the city sent 572 pilgrims this year.
He said all pilgrims had been given meningitis shots from the end of July but admitted the vaccine did not cover the corona virus.
Riau Islands (Kepri) Governor Muhammad Sani officially saw off 444 pilgrims at the Batam Haj Dormitory in Batam Center.
“You have to be thankful that you are not among those must wait until 2026 for the haj,” Sani said, referring to the long queue of pilgrims in the province. Those who registered this year must wait for 13 years to go.
The Batam embarkation point is scheduled to send 7,866 pilgrims in 18 flights. Last year, there were 23 flights from Hang Nadim International Airport.
Batam embarkation point serves pilgrims from Kepri, Riau, Jambi and West Kalimantan.
“We have prepared for the departure here by providing huge LCD monitors to provide pilgrims and their families with the latest information,” said the head of the ministry’s Kepri provincial office, Handarlin Umar.
Separately, the Hang Nadim authority said the 18 pilgrim flights would depart from Tuesday until Sept. 27. The returning flights are scheduled to arrive between Oct. 27 and Nov. 7.