JAKARTA, Indonesia

Muslims in Southeast Asia began Ramadan on Tuesday amid social distancing and other coronavirus-related guidelines provided by local health authorities.

Indonesia, the world’s largest majority-Muslim nation, is observing the month of fasting for the second time since the global pandemic.

“This year’s Ramadan is again during the pandemic. Muslims must meet health guidelines during their worship, such as wearing masks, washing hands, maintaining social distance, avoiding crowds, and limiting mobility,” the country’s Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said in a statement.

The number of cases has already risen and continues to grow, “so we must adhere to the restrictions in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during this month,” Muhammad Nashir, a resident of Surabaya city, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.

Nashir said he attends classes and studies online as most activities in the holy month are carried out virtually.

Muslims in Malaysia welcomed the holy month with joy as they are allowed to pray Tarawih, the special night prayers during Ramadan, in congregation despite strict measures, including physical distancing and limitations on the number of worshipers in mosques.

“I am very happy and grateful that Muslims will fast as usual even though there are restrictions related to COVID-19,” Shamsul Kamal Idris Al-Banjary told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday from Kuala Lumpur.

Under a Malaysian government announcement, small gatherings for iftar or fast-breaking meals will be allowed in restaurants, banquet halls, and mosques, and a limited number of people are permitted to offer Tarawih prayers with social distancing, he said.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s official Muslim body, the Sheikhul Islam Office, announced the start of Ramadan on Tuesday, as did authorities in the Philippines and Singapore.

More than three million COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Southeast Asian countries so far, with over 62,000 deaths.

Indonesia, with over 1.57 million coronavirus cases and nearly 43,000 deaths, has become the most affected country in the region

*Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo with Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian language services in Jakarta

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