Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world and tens of millions of people return home to celebrate the end of Ramadan each year with their families and loved ones, an annual tradition called mudik.
But the country is struggling with a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus infections and there is concern that mass home migration for Idul Fitri – the Indonesian name for Eid al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of a month-long Ramadan fast – will cause further Covid-19 outbreaks.
In an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease, all vacation travel to the country has been banned, with public transportation between major cities suspended from Friday to May 31. Tens of thousands of soldiers are deployed at checkpoints to enforce regulations.
Private vehicles and motorcycles have been banned from traveling into and out of the major cities that are Covid-19 hotspots, known as “red zones”. In these locations, more stringent lockdown measures are in place to contain the virus. One of those areas is the Greater Jakarta region, where the coronavirus has spread rapidly over the past month.
This year, Indonesian Muslims will observe Ramadan in very different circumstances. Strict social distancing measures in coronavirus hotspots, such as the capital Jakarta, prevent families and friends from visiting each other and breaking their fast with the iftar meal.
The Indonesian Council of Ulemas and Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Islamic organizations, have called on Muslims not to pray together in mosques. The government has not implemented a ban on closing mosques at this stage.
“There is no splendor in the streets, the space of the mosque is silent, the new atmosphere that we will feel, absorbing the true meaning of the fast that we are leading,” said President Joko Widodo, encouraging Muslims to focus on private prayer and make fasting a personal worship.
“Let us welcome the blessing of Ramadan as a moment to break the chain of transmission of the plague for personal safety, loved ones and the whole nation.”
Travel prohibited during Ramadan
Travel restrictions have been scheduled to coincide with the peak of the exodus, which usually occurs a week before Idul Fitr, when most residents of Jakarta and other major cities travel to their towns and villages to celebrate with their relatives.
Train services will be suspended until June 15, while air travel ban will be in effect until June 1, and travel restrictions by sea will be in effect until June 8, the gate confirmed – speech of the Indonesian Ministry of Transport, Adita Irawati. The transport of goods is exempt from the ban.
“Certain exceptions are allowed for logistics, food supply, medicine supply, transportation for paramedics, firefighters and ambulances,” said Irawati.
She said the measures did not constitute a complete blockade of national roads and highways, but that there would be checkpoints established to enforce the ban.
The date of Idul Fitri has not yet been set – it will be decided by the government on the 29th day of Ramadan – but the holy month generally lasts 30 days.
Those caught in violation of the restrictions in the next two weeks will be returned to their places of departure, while those who continue to travel from May 7 to 31 will also be fined, Irawati said.
He said the decision to ban vacation travel was based on a survey by the Ministry of Transport, which found that 24% of people would continue to return home despite the social restrictions in place.
Police spokesmen said the volume of cars leaving Jakarta by the main highway on Thursday had increased by 27% from the previous day.
Social distancing during the holiest month of Islam
While Indonesian Muslims have been advised to avoid praying in large groups, the mosques remain open.
In some rural areas, villagers say they have formed working groups to implement social hygiene and distancing measures while continuing to pray.
Shabbarin Syakur, militant of the Islamist group Majelis Mujahidin, in the village of Cemani in the central Java province of Sukoharjo district, said that almost all of the 30 mosques in his city were still open for group prayers such as prayers. Friday.
“Last night, I went to my big mosque with a hundred people to do Tarawih, or the evening prayer, during Ramadan. I am not afraid or afraid because we live in a green area and we also do a Covid-19 protocol in the mosque, “he said.
A green zone is an zone which has no confirmed cases of coronavirus, but which is under surveillance.
Shabbarin said villagers have formed a task force in each mosque and provide soap and water to wash their hands before entering, spray disinfectant and distribute masks. They make sure that the faithful form a line and keep a safe distance away while praying inside the mosque.
“At the same time, we also shortened the duration of the prayer, erased the Imam’s speech and broke the fast together in the mosque,” he said.
“The situation here in the villages is different from that in Jakarta. So we educate the villagers that they don’t really need to be panicked or scared. Instead, we educate them on how to be security and secure themselves by understanding the Covid-19 protocol in our so we can do the month of fasting during Ramadan peacefully, “he said.