Gloomy end to Ramadan with more coronavirus cases and restrictions

By Francesca Cicardi

Cairo, May 23 (EFE).- Muslims in the Middle East on Saturday concluded the holy month of Ramadan that has been marred this year by coronavirus restrictions that did not prevent an increase in cases.

This has led to more restrictions being imposed during the Islamic festival of Eid.

Muslims will not be able to perform the congregational prayers of Eid, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, in mosques and public spaces due to the respiratory disease.

The pandemic will also limit, and in some cases prevent, the usual aspects of celebration, including family visits and giving children new cloth and presents.

In the United Arab Emirates, the government advised against giving children money as usual for Eid.

Religious authorities in Egypt urged people to bring alms, which are usually paid at the end of Ramadan, forward to help the most affected by the economic repercussions of the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq re-imposed a 24-hour curfew during the religious holiday.

Both countries eased the movement restrictions during Ramadan, during which time Saudi Arabia reported a 186 percent increase in cases and Iraq reported 136 percent.

“These measures are not new, we were psychologically prepared weeks ago,” Suliman al-Mutawa, a Saudi public worker and father of three, told Efe.

“We are going to do nothing for Eid but we have bought new clothes for the children to make them feel the joy of Eid as much as we can, we have bought sweets,” al-Mutawa said.

“We have convinced them with difficulty that this year’s circumstances require staying home and that this Eid will not be like the previous ones.“

In Baghdad, Saad Taher al-Samarai said he would spend the days off at home.

“This year it will only be a few days off, there will be no Eid prayer or visits between family and friends due to the coronavirus,” al-Samarai, a father of a child and two young girls, told Efe.

He used to visit his father’s grave on the first day of the festival and give money to the people gathered there, but not this year.

Over the one-week long vacation, his family will not be able to go on picnics as they usually do.

The Egyptian government announced a one-week long vacation and strict measures to prevent travel between provinces, although hotels have been allowed to resume activities as long they respect health precautions.

The ministries of health and tourism issued health safety certificates to dozens of premises over the past week in a bid to rescue the season for a sector that has been paralyzed due to a flight suspension imposed in March.

Hotels, allowed to work at 25 percent capacities, must provide protective gear, while buffet meals and shisha, a tobacco pipe which is traditionally smoked communally, have been banned.

Authorities have suspended public transportation between provinces during Eid after reporting a surge in coronavirus cases especially during the second half of Ramadan.

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