Indonesia cancels international Muslim gathering as virus risk mounts


  • Indonesia
  • Thursday, 19 Mar 2020

Paramilitary police officers in hazmat suit disinfect a tent built on a field where a mass congregation is supposed to be held in Gowa, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Thursday (March 19). Indonesia halted the congregation of thousands of Muslim pilgrims and began quarantining and checking their health on Thursday to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 (coronavirus). - AP

JAKARTA: An international gathering of Muslims on Indonesia's Sulawei island has been cancelled over concern about the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 25 people and infected 309 in the country, officials said on Thursday (March 19).

A similar gathering by Tablighi Jamaat in Malaysia in late February has been linked to more than 500 Covid-19 cases in that country, including three Indonesians.

"The Tablighi congregation has been officially cancelled," presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rachman said.

The local government on Monday sent a letter to organisers requesting cancellation, but the appeal was ignored.

Thousands of members of Tablighi Jamaat, an international Islamic missionary movement, have already arrived in Gowa district in South Sulawesi province to attend the four-day gathering scheduled to start Thursday, police said.

Local police chief Boy Samlo in Gowa said they would prevent participants who had already arrived from mingling with the local population.

The death toll from Covid-19 in Indonesia stood at 25 as of Thursday, with the total number of cases at 309, according to the country's health ministry.

The 82 new cases announced on Thursday marked the highest daily rise for Indonesia.

Health ministry spokesman Achmad Yurianto said 15 people have fully recovered.

Meanwhile, more than 1,500 attended the ordination of a Catholic archbishop on Indonesia's Flores island despite calls by officials for the event to be cancelled.

"We couldn't cancel the event because it had been planned for months," said local district chief Deno Kamelus. - dpa/Asian News Network
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