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Some regional leaders to allow mass Idul Fitri prayers despite calls to worship at home

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2020

Jakarta – Some regional leaders are set to allow residents to perform mass Idul Fitri prayers despite the central government's announcement that such gatherings were against prevailing public health laws during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Bekasi city administration in West Java, for example, has announced that it will allow 38 districts to hold mass Idul Fitri prayers, saying the districts are categorized as "green zones", meaning they have a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases.

The West Java provincial administration, however, has classified the city of Bekasi as a "red zone", meaning that it is a high-risk area for COVID-19 transmission.

In West Nusa Tenggara, Bima Mayor Lutfi has also announced that mass prayers are allowed, contradicting Governor Zulkieflimansyah's decision to ban all forms of congregational prayer during the holiday.

"The governor has prohibited mass Idul Fitri prayers, [but] we'll do it anyway. It's my decision," Lutfi said on Wednesday as quoted by kompas.com.

Lutfi said that residents had to follow strict health protocols when performing the prayers and that the city administration would deploy officers to oversee the gatherings.

"We will only allow mass Idul Fitri prayers in mosques under strict supervision. Residents will not be allowed to shake hands. They are also required to use face masks and maintain safe physical distances," Lutfi said.

Lumajang regency in East Java has taken a similar approach.

"Mass Idul Fitri prayers are allowed as long as worshipers implement health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19," Lumajang Regent Thoriqul Haq said in a statement on Tuesday as reported by Antara News Agency.

Thoriq said his administration had issued a circular to mosques throughout the regency containing guidelines for the performance of prayers.

Several other regions that have not reported any confirmed cases of COVID-19 such as North Gorontalo regency in Gorontalo and Natuna Regency in Riau Islands will also allow residents to perform mass Idul Fitri prayers.

Univeristy of Indonesia epidemiologist Pandu Riono has said that allowing mass Idul Fitri prayers could create new COVID-19 clusters.

"Well, if that's the decision then whatever. Just brace for new clusters of COVID-19 transmission," he told kompas.com on Wednesday.

Coordinating Legal, Political and Human Rights Minister Mahfud MD said on Tuesday that all forms of mass religious activities were against the Health Ministry's regulation on large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) and the 2018 Health Quarantine Law.

According to the central government's count, Indonesia had 20,162 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 1,278 fatalities as of Thursday. (nal)

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/05/22/some-regional-leaders-to-allow-mass-idul-fitri-prayers-despite-calls-to-worship-at-home.html