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Indonesia

Indonesians gather for Eid al-Adha despite virus surge

President Joko Widodo appeals to Muslims to pray at home to mark Eid rather than risk infection at public gatherings

AFP, Jakarta

AFP, Jakarta

Published: July 20, 2021 06:52 AM GMT

Updated: July 20, 2021 06:57 AM GMT

Indonesians gather for Eid al-Adha despite virus surge

Indonesians perform Eid al-Adha prayers amid the spread of the coronavirus in Medan, North Sumatra,  on July 20. (Photo: AFP)

Indonesians prayed outside mosques and slaughtered goats to commemorate a somber Eid al-Adha festival on July 20 despite efforts to stop mass gatherings as coronavirus deaths skyrocket.

This week marks the second time during the pandemic that the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation has celebrated the Feast of Sacrifice, which signals the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Authorities have banned large crowds, including at traditional events that feature the sacrifice of livestock, and urged the public not to gather for acts of religious worship.

In the capital Jakarta and elsewhere, some heeded an official request not to go inside mosques but instead gathered to pray on nearby roads, while residents in Bandung laid out their prayer mats in narrow alleyways outside their homes.

Thousands of others in Banda Aceh assembled in close quarters outside the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, where vendors hawked animal-shaped balloons to families.

President Joko Widodo appealed to Muslims to pray at home to mark Eid rather than risk infection at public gatherings.

Checkpoints have been set up on roads across Java and domestic flights are subject to tighter restrictions

"In the midst of the pandemic, we need to be willing to sacrifice even more," he said in a July 19 television address. "Put the interests of the community and others first."

Virus cases shot up after millions traveled across the vast archipelago of nearly 270 million people at the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in May.

Indonesia has in recent days overtaken India and Brazil as a global Covid-19 hotspot and its daily death toll hit a record of 1,338 on July 19.

Cases have been topping 50,000 a day, around 10 times above the average figure in early June, as the highly infectious Delta variant ripples across the country.

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Checkpoints have been set up on roads across Java and domestic flights are subject to tighter restrictions in a bid to stop people from traveling to see relatives.

The surge has overwhelmed hospitals in the capital Jakarta and across densely populated Java, sparking shortages of oxygen.

Patients have been turned away by medical staff or treated in makeshift tents set up in hospital parking lots as more and more of the sick die at home.

Indonesia has recorded more than 2.9 million cases and nearly 75,000 deaths but testing and tracing rates are low and experts believe the true figure is far higher.

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