Indonesia: Muslims welcome Ramadan amid Covid-19 restrictions; virus total now goes past 1.571 million

A mosque worker fixes a physical distancing mark on the floor of the Cut Meutia Mosque in Central Jakarta in 2020. - Jakarta Post/ANN

JAKARTA, April 12 (Jakarta Post/ANN): For the second year in a row, Indonesian Muslims are celebrating the holy month of Ramadan with limited social gatherings, only this time they are encouraged to better contribute to public health by getting their vaccine jabs.

Following a confirmation meeting with Islamic organisations and relevant parties and in consideration of astronomical calculations and the new moon observation, the government announced on Monday that this year’s Ramadan would start on Tuesday (April 13).

The government reminded Muslims to avoid large gatherings during prayers and the collection and distribution of alms.

Last year, many congregants across the country continued to perform tarawih (Ramadan evening prayers) in mosques during the first few days of the fasting month despite the government’s official advisory and partial lockdown policies in several regions that required worship from home.

Many flocked to traditional markets as Ramadan started, and some villagers even began the month early.

And this have not improved much. Indonesia is the worst Covid-19 hit country in South-East Asia and also has among the worst record in Asia.

On Monday (Apr 12), the Covid-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 4,829 within one day to 1,571,824, with the death toll adding by 126 to 42,656, the Health Ministry said.

According to the ministry, 5,289 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 1,419,796.

The virus has spread to all the country's 34 provinces.

This year, however, the government is allowing Muslims to perform prayers, including congregational tarawih, in places of worship, but has limited attendance to a maximum of 50 percent of capacity, with notes on a strict application of health protocols.

In a circular released recently, Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas called on his regional officials and local mosque managers around the country to provide Covid-19-risk-free worship guidelines to the people.

The ministry said healthy Muslims were still encouraged to fast according to religious provisions, but it has asked that iftar and sahur (predawn) meals be held in their respective homes with their immediate family.

Nevertheless, joint iftar events can still be held at 50 percent of the venue capacity.

The duration of religious recitations or Ramadan sermons is limited to 15 minutes, while mosque officials are obliged to make clear to all congregations about health protocols, carry out regular disinfections and provide facilities for handwashing at the entrances.

The commemoration of Nuzulul Quran (the revelation day of the Quran), which usually takes place in mosques, can be held indoors and outdoors with congregations limited to 50 percent of the venue capacity, but congregants are also required to strictly observe health protocols.

These provisions, according to Yaqut, do not apply for red and orange zones -- regions with high or moderate Covid-19 risks where Ramadan-related activities in mosques are fully banned -- and may change if the national Covid-19 task force or local administrations report a worsening outbreak. - The Jakarta Post/ANN

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