Mosques in Indonesia were allowed to open for Ramzan with strict health protocols (file photo)Jakarta:
Muslims began marking Ramzan on Tuesday by following Covid-19 guidelines. Last year the mosques were empty during Ramzan when the coronavirus pandemic had started. Covid-19 cases are rising in Indonesia but vaccines are being administered and the government is relaxing restrictions. Mosques were allowed to open for Ramzan prayers with strict health protocols in place. Malls and cafes were also allowed to open.
Neighbouring Muslim-majority Malaysia also eased restrictions, including last year's ban on "taraweeh" or night prayers and allowing open-air markets selling food and clothes. Indonesia's Religious Affairs Minister, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, in a televised address on Monday, announced that the new Ramzan moon had been spotted. The holy month is marked by prayers and dawn-to-dusk fasting.
Last year, the authorities had shut all mosques and clerics urged people to pray at home during Ramzan. This year, people are expecting a rise in Covid cases and all mosques will continue to adhere to social distancing norms and other precautions, said Nasaruddin Umar, the Imam of Jakarta's Istiqlal Grand mosque.
In Jakarta, authorities sanitized 317 mosques on Sunday ahead of Ramzan, said Jakarta's Governor, Anies Baswedan. Soaps and hand sanitizers have been kept and steps to maintain social distance have also been taken. The government will also allow people to hold Iftar gatherings during Ramzan in restaurants, malls and cafes but they can only function with 50 per cent of their capacity and follow strict health guidelines.
"I don''t think it's a good idea to reopen the bazaars. The rules are there but many people don't follow them," an administrative officer said. In Malaysia, coronavirus cases have more than tripled since January to more than 362,000, with daily cases exceeding 1,000. Indonesia is the worst-hit country in Southeast Asia with over 1.5 million infections as of Monday and more than 42,600 deaths. Indonesia will continue to vaccinate people through Ramzan. The country's top clerical body said, Muslims eligible for vaccination are not only allowed but "required" to get the shots during Ramzan.