More may get to go on haj in 2015: Yaacob

More may get to go on haj in 2015: Yaacob

More Muslim Singaporeans may be able to go on the haj next year.

Singapore's request to raise the official haj quota from 680 to 800 could be met next year, said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, who is the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, yesterday.

Last year, the Saudi government temporarily shrank Singapore's official quota due to development and upgrading works near the Holy Mosque in Mecca. The 136 visas were later reinstated.

Officially, Singapore can send 680 pilgrims each year, or 0.1 per cent of its Muslim population.

This year, the country's request to send more Muslim Singaporeans for the religious pilgrimage was turned down.

"Possibly next year (the Saudi authorities) might look at it again because as the works get more completed, there will be more capacity," said Dr Yaacob, who is also the Minister for Communications and Information.

He shared this with reporters after seeing off 231 pilgrims at Changi Airport yesterday.

He advised pilgrims to take necessary precautions, such as washing their hands before they eat, in the light of health concerns about the Ebola epidemic.

A team of medical personnel is already in Mecca to help the pilgrims if needed, he added.

Teacher Nurliza Sawi, 46, who is making the pilgrimage for the first time, said she will take extra care of her personal hygiene.

"I won't go near camels or walk about unnecessarily, and will drink more water," she said.

Security in Mecca has been stepped up to screen for signs of Ebola and the Middle East respiratory syndrome, said the head of the Singapore delegation, Mr Raja Mohamad Maiden.

But he cautioned: "Pilgrims have to be prepared for a longer waiting time."

The annual pilgrimage is performed as early as one month in advance of Hari Raya Haji, which falls on Oct 5 this year.

This article was first published on Sept 27, 2014.
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