Indonesia has reported its highest number of daily coronavirus cases as millions of people in the world’s fourth most populous country prepared to mark the festival of Eid al-Fitr without the usual celebrations and gatherings.
This year’s festivities will be dampened by the economic hardship for many as Indonesian migrant workers, who usually send money back home to their families, have been left stranded and with no income.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo has banned people travelling home to their families for the holiday, though thousands have reportedly made the journey this week, despite fears that this could prompt further rises in transmission.
Officials said the virus has been spreading at its fastest rate over the past nine days, due in part to a worsening outbreak in East Java.
On Thursday, the country reported 973 new infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 20,162. The authorities have asked the military and the police to prevent arrivals in Jakarta until a full reopening of the capital is permitted.
As of Friday, 5,101,97 cases of coronavirus have been reported around the word, with the US recording the highest number of infections. There is growing concern about the outbreak in Brazil, which recorded its biggest daily death toll on Thursday, when 1,188 fatalities were reported. Brazil now has 310,087 recorded cases – seen as a likely underestimate given the lack of testing in the country – and has almost overtaken Russia to become the second worst-hit country behind the US.
Across the world, many Muslim countries have said they will tighten restrictions this weekend for Eid, which marks the end of the holiest time in the Muslim calendar, the Ramadan month of fasting.
In Lebanon, an economic crisis that was already causing huge hardship has worsened as a result of the pandemic and left Muslims in despair as Eid begins.
Even during the civil war there was money and no one starved,” said an unemployed public bus driver, Mohammad, in Beirut. “Now it’s just welfare. Who would have thought?”
In Egypt, authorities are bringing forward the start of the existing coronavirus curfew by four hours to 5 pm, and banning all public transport for six days from Sunday. Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, the first town in the West Bank to be sealed off because of a coronavirus outbreak, the Palestinian authority has said a lockdown will be re-imposed on the West Bank during the three days of the festival.
Authorities in Iran have also warned people not to travel during the festival. “Our biggest concern” is to have “new peaks of the disease in the country by not respecting health regulations,” said health minister Saeed Namaki. “So I ask the dear Iranian people… not to travel during the Eid al-Fitr holiday. New trips mean new Covid-19 infections,” he said, quoted by the semi-official news agency ISNA.
The health ministry announced 66 more deaths and another 2,392 cases of coronavirus infection across Iran, which has the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak.
For the most vulnerable, who have lost work and are stranded away from home, the holiday period will be especially challenging. Maizidah Salas, a coordinator at the non-profit Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union, said this year will be “the saddest Eid for migrant workers and their family members”.
The festival is usually celebrated with feasts, gifts and new clothes, and there is normally a spike in remittances sent by millions of people who work overseas in casual construction and factory jobs. This year, however, many have seen their work cut as businesses have been forced to close.
Wasito, who works as a plumber in Malaysia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that he has not been paid his monthly wages of 2,500 ringgit ($575) during the six-week shutdown. Instead, he has been forced to borrow money from his employer just to eat.
“I did not dare to ask why I wasn’t paid because I don’t want to be fired, and I’m too embarrassed to borrow money again for Eid,” he said. “My wife has been calling every day and crying. We have to cancel Eid celebrations this year.”
The other key developments around the world include:
China has abandoned its annual forecast for economic growth, blaming the “great uncertainty” of the pandemic. Premier Li Keqiang told the opening session of the national congress in Beijing that the nation would have to “tighten its belt” because of the economic shock from coronavirus but pledged huge monetary and fiscal stimulus to keep it going.
In the US, Donald Trump defied pleas from carmaker Ford to wear a mask when he visited one of its factories in Michigan on Thursday that has been turned over to the manufacture of ventilators.
In Britain, Boris Johnson has been forced to back down and drop the visa surcharge on migrant health workers.
New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, will move to stage two of the post-lockdown easing on 1 June, allowing gatehrings in pubs and cafes of up to 50 people. But home affairs minister Peter Dutton has stirred an interstate row by telling Queenslanders to defy their premier and resume travel outside the state.
Wilson Jerman, a former White House butler who served eleven presidents, has died from Covid-19 aged 91 .