Ramadan fears in Indonesia

A worker sprays a mosque in Surabaya with disinfectant

Indonesia – the most populous Muslim nation in the world – only reported the first confirmed cases on 2 March but the number had already reached 227 with 19 deaths in just over two weeks. Many believe the real figure could be much higher.

Experts have predicted that the worst is yet to come, a modelling forecast put the number of confirmed cases at more than 8,000 by mid-April.

The government has ordered a “partial lockdown”, with calls for citizens to “work, study and worship” at home. Officials have called on people to exercise social distancing but vulnerable groups are already struggling.

Small businesses and street vendors, who have suffered losses, may not be able to sustain their livelihood if this situation continues in the coming weeks (the government has already announced various stimulus packages).

Schools have resorted to online learning for the time being but this method only favours privileged students with devices and an internet connection at home.

Social distancing is paramount to contain the spread of the virus, but how can people living in densely populated, slum areas even do that? Next month, devout Muslims in Indonesia will start observing Ramadan, during which religious gatherings intensify.