Jakarta, Apr 23 (efe-epa).- Indonesia, the country with the largest number of Muslims in the world, is preparing to begin Ramadan on Friday with travel bans and online prayers in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already left 635 dead in the country.
The Indonesian archipelago, with a population of 267 million, records a massive yearly exodus between its islands throughout the Muslim holy month that culminates in the celebration of Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of the fast. This year it will end on May 23.
Local health authorities have highlighted the great risk of spreading the virus, especially for workers from Jakarta, the epicenter of the national epidemic, to less-developed provinces with a poor health system.
The Ulema Council, the country’s highest authority on Islamic affairs, last night asked the faithful during this Ramadan to avoid moving and remain in their residences, something that will not prevent them from practicing fasting during daylight hours and prayer.
“This year we are not in a normal situation, but in a global emergency. So (during this extraordinary time) do not practice religion as an act of individual freedom,” said the council in a religious decree issued Wednesday.
The Islamic authority also recommended following the imams’ prayers online, due to the ban on gathering more than five people, including mosques.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced two days ago in a speech to the nation that the travel ban is to prevent the proliferation of COVID-19 cases.
Luhut Pandjaitan, acting transport minister, clarified in a video that the ban takes effect Friday, although the sanctions will not begin to apply until May 7.
The minister pointed out that all the entrances and exits to the most infected districts of Jakarta will be completely prohibited.
The authorities will establish traffic controls and block the main highways, in addition to controlling the country’s ports.
Indonesia is the Southeast Asian country with the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 and has detected, according to the latest official data, 7,410 cases in the country.
A high death rate from infected that has set off alarm bells among experts, who warn that the number of undetected cases may be much higher and demand that the government carry out a greater number of tests.
About 88 percent of the more than 265 million Indonesians practice Islam, most of whom are moderates, although there are significant minorities of other religions. EFE-EPA