Indonesians greet Ramadan in sombre mood amid Covid-19 restrictions

  • Indonesia
  • Sunday, 19 Apr 2020

A member of the Indonesian Red Cross wears protective gear at a police check point during the imposition of large-scale restrictions aimed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus outbreak in Tangerang, Indonesia on Sunday (April 19). Muslims in Indonesia are resigned to the fact that things will not be the same this Ramadan, amid restrictions on gatherings and travel to stem the spread of the coronavirus. - AP

JAKARTA: The holy month of Ramadan is a time when religious fervour is high and many Muslims spend longer time at mosques or attending daily fast-breaking gatherings with families and friends.

But this year is different. Muslims in Indonesia are resigned to the fact that things will not be the same this Ramadan, amid restrictions on gatherings and travel to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, is expected to start on April 23 or 24 depending on the sighting of the new moon, a method described in the Koran."Things will be very different and this makes us really sad," says Renaldi Adri Rimbatara, a 32-year-old who lives in Bogor, just south of Jakarta.

"We will miss the taraweeh (evening) prayers with the community, iftar gatherings and resort to videocalls or instant messaging to communicate with our relatives," he tells dpa.

To make matters worse, the father of two is fearing for his future as the pandemic has forced him to temporarily close his small printing shop amid widespread restrictions on non-essential businesses.

Rimbatara says he will try and keep iftar, the much-anticipated evening fast-breaking feast simple this year."I don’t know if I can continue to put food on the table if this situation persists," he says. As of Saturday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Indonesia stood at 6,248, surpassing the Philippines to become the worst-hit nation in South-East Asia.

There have been 535 virus-related deaths.

More than half of the confirmed cases and deaths are in the capital, Jakarta, where authorities have imposed a partial lockdown, closing places of worship, non-essential businesses, entertainment centres and schools.

Other regions in the sprawling archipelago, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country of 260 million people, have imposed similar measures.

The Indonesian Council of Ulema, the country's semi-authority onIslamic affairs, has warned post-Ramadan Eid al-Fitr revellers against travelling home for the holiday, saying to do so during a pandemic would be a sin.

"Just staying at home to avoid spreading the virus or being exposed to the virus is considered a religious duty at a time like this," said Asrorun Ni’am, an official at the ulema council’s fatwa commission.

The government earlier said people could travel to celebrate the end of Ramadan in their home towns, provided they self-isolate.

Late,r this was revised to ban civil servants, members of the military and police and employees of state-owned companies from travelling home for Eid.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Friday that more than 1.4 million workers had been furloughed or laid off and the government has warned that 5.2 million could lose their jobs.

Diana Marsella, who works at an online ticket booking company in Jakarta, feels lucky that she is still employed despite a 40% pay cut.

The silver lining is that she gets to work from home and be with her husband and five-year-old son this Ramadan.

"Ramadan is a time of joy and people spend a lot of time outside praying, meeting friends and even eating suhoor (pre-deal meals) outside, this this time it will not be like that," she tells dpa.

"I will still be fasting and I don’t believe fasting will make me weaker," she says. "We'll just have to consume more health supplements and eat a lot more fruit and vegetables." - dpa
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Indonesia , Ramadhan , Covid-19


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