Muslims worldwide will celebrate one of their biggest holidays under the long shadow of the coronavirus, with millions confined to their homes and others gripped by economic concerns during what is usually a festive time of shopping and celebration.
The three-day Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan for the world’s 1.8bn Muslims. People usually celebrate by travelling, visiting family and gathering for lavish meals, all of which will be largely prohibited as authorities try to prevent new virus outbreaks. The holiday will begin on Saturday or Sunday, depending on the sighting of the new moon, and the dawn-to-dusk fasting of Ramadan will come to an end.
Some countries, including Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, will impose round-the-clock curfews for the holiday. In Saudi Arabia, home to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, people will be allowed to leave their homes only to buy food and medicine.
Most restrictions have been lifted in Jerusalem, but the Al-Aqsa mosque compound – the third holiest site in Islam – will remain closed until. Shopkeepers in the Old City, empty of tourists and pilgrims since March, are reeling from the six weeks of lockdown.
In Egypt, authorities have extended the curfew, which will now begin at 5pm instead of 9pm, and halted public transportation until 29 May. Shopping centres, malls, beaches and parks will be closed.
In Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country, the president, Joko Widodo, said restrictions would remain in place through the holiday. The country, with a population of 270m, has reported more than 18,000 cases, including about 1,200 deaths. Since the start of the Ramadan, the government has imposed an outright ban on “mudik”, a holiday tradition in which millions of Indonesians living in big cities flock to their home towns to celebrate with relatives. Health experts had warned it could set off a wave of new cases.
Iceland is set to lower its national emergency rating on Monday, as authorities said there were just two people left in isolation waiting to recover from their coronavirus infections.
The north Atlantic island state, which acted quickly to contain its outbreak, has so far recorded 1,803 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Ten people have died and 1,791 have recovered.
Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, Þórólfur Guðnason, has reportedly submitted proposals to now significantly ease Covid-19 restrictions, including reopening bars and permitting gatherings of up to 200 people.