Jakarta (ANTARA) - Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas has said that the number of Indonesian Hajj pilgrims dying during the pilgrimage this year reached 748 — the highest figure recorded since 2017.

He made the statement after welcoming returning Hajj officers at Soekarno Hatta International Airport, Tangerang, Banten, on Thursday.

In 2017, the number of Indonesian Hajj pilgrims who died during the pilgrimage was recorded at 438, up 28 percent from 342 the previous year.

This year's death toll is understandable since the number of elderly pilgrims joining the Hajj was 67 thousand.

According to Qoumas, the hot temperatures in Saudi Arabia, which reached close to 50 degrees Celsius, especially in Arafat, which clocked an average temperature of 44 degrees Celsius, also increased the risk of dehydration among Hajj participants.

The death toll this year has been evaluated by the Religious Affairs Ministry to improve Hajj pilgrimage services next year.

"We have carried out an evaluation. We have spoken with the head of the Hajj Center of the Health Ministry so that the future mechanism regarding health istitha'ah (ability) will also be part of the improvement," the minister informed.

For example, in the future, before prospective Hajj pilgrims pay the full pilgrimage costs, a health check will need to be carried out first. The prospective pilgrims will be allowed to complete the payment after they are declared healthy and strong enough to carry out the pilgrimage, Qoumas elaborated.

He pointed out that under the current system, prospective pilgrims have been paying the pilgrimage cost fully before getting their health checked.

According to him, certainty in the health aspect must be prioritized before the Hajj fee payment to ensure Hajj participants have the stamina to undertake the pilgrimage.

Furthermore, the minister asked the relevant stakeholders to continue to prioritize elderly Hajj pilgrims, whose number in the queue has continued to experience an increase.

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Translator: Andi Firdaus, Raka Adji
Editor: Azis Kurmala
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