Clerics from Al-Hidayah Basmol Islamic Boarding School observe the position of the moon to determine the start of Ramadan at Al Musariin Mosque in West Jakarta on Thursday. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Jokowi Tells Indonesian Muslims to Embrace 'Quiet' Ramadan Amid Pandemic

BY :HERU ANDRIYANTO

APRIL 24, 2020

Jakarta. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo asks Indonesian Muslims to get prepared for "a very different” Ramadan which starts on Friday, urging them to maintain physical distancing and stay at home while observing the fasting month during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Covid-19 pandemic forces us to observe the fasting month this year in a very different circumstance. There will be no street parades and mosques will remain quiet,” the president said in a televised address aired by the State Secretariat.  

“We will embrace a very different circumstance while observing the true meaning of fasting, the private devotion that doesn’t need witnesses,” Jokowi said.

The Religious Affairs Ministry has called on Muslims to observe Ramadan at home, including during the extra evening prayer, or tarawih, which is usually held in congregation at mosques. It also bans communal feast when people gather to break their fast. 

“Let’s welcome the glorious Ramadan as a moment to break the cycle of the outbreak, for the safety of ourselves, our families and the whole nation,” the president said.

 

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization issued guidance that highlights public health advice for social and religious practices and gatherings during Ramadan.

“If cancelling social and religious gatherings, where possible, virtual alternatives using platforms such as television, radio, digital, and social media can be used instead. If Ramadan gatherings are allowed to proceed, measures to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 transmission should be implemented,” the WHO said.

The WHO said social and religious gatherings during Ramadan should strictly maintaining a distance of at least 1 meter between people at all times, replacing handshakes with greetings that avoid physical contact, such as waving, nodding, or placing the hand over the heart, and banning large numbers of people gathering in places associated with Ramadan activities.

Yet to Slow

Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Indonesia increased by 357 to 7,775 on Thursday, as the pace of the epidemic has yet to slow down. The total cases included 960 patients who have fully recovered and 647 deaths.

The country also has more than 18,000 patients suspected of having the virus, but their cases cannot be confirmed pending the swab tests.

Covid-19 Task Force spokesman Achmad Yurianto said the government is expecting the arrival of 15,000 reagents from South Korea later in the day to be used in the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, currently the most reliable method to screen Covid-19.

“Once the reagents arrive, we will immediately distribute them to all labs capable of conducting the tests, so that all patients under observation can get confirmation,” Achmad said in a daily video conference in Jakarta. 

Imports of reagents and lab equipment will continue until the country can deliver mass testing nationwide, he said, adding that another 400,000 reagents will arrive this week.

Achmad said 43 medical labs across Indonesia have so far conducted 48,647 PCR tests, a very low representation from the country’s population of more than 272 million people.

“The testing must be conducted in biosecurity level-2 labs and it requires reagents and certain equipment that we must buy from other countries,” Achmad said. 

“During this pandemic, all affected countries need reagents while supplies are very limited,” he added. 

The daily updates of confirmed cases are based on PCR testing only, while results from rapid tests – which measure antibody level in blood samples to detect virus infection – aren’t counted, he said.

“We use the data to determine next measures in mitigating the pandemic, such as distribution of personal protective equipment, reagents and volunteers to districts,” he said.

Suspect coronavirus patients who died must be treated as confirmed cases to follow health protocol during the burial procedures and to protect the loved ones and funeral service workers, he said.

Funeral service workers wearing protective gear lower the plastic-wrapped coffin into the grave. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Funeral service workers wearing protective gear lower a plastic-wrapped coffin into a grave at Pondok Ranggon, East Jakarta.

“But we don’t classify them as Covid-19 deaths until we get results from the PCR testing using specimens taken before their deaths,” he said.

Achmad said the national tally of Covid-19 cases was accumulated in a very transparent way involving all levels of the administration, from the sub-districts to the provincial governments.

“The government has no vested interests or benefits to manipulate the data. On the contrary, [manipulated data] will only ruin all the hard works we have done so far,” he said.
 

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