Spectre of COVID-19 casts shadow over Ramadan Monarch says mosques will remain closed and Hari Raya traditions will have to be curtailed

HM the Sultan speaking from Istana Nurul Iman on April 24, 2020. Photo: Infofoto

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Although Brunei has seen early success in containing the spread of coronavirus, the threat of a widespread outbreak still hangs over the country as Muslims welcome the holy month of Ramadan.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah addressed the nation on the eve of Ramadan, which begins on Saturday in Brunei.

“Months before the start of Ramadan, the COVID-19 outbreak took us by surprise, bringing discomfort and even fear. This is not only felt by Brunei but by everywhere else in the world,” he said in a titah broadcast on RTB.

With mosques and places of worship closed due to the outbreak, congregational prayers have not been held in Brunei for almost six weeks.

“We do this to avoid the risk of COVID-19 infection… It is with Allah’s permission that we are able to control the outbreak effectively,” His Majesty said. “I believe this is because of the united prevention efforts and also because of prayer.”

He added that with the continuing threat of the global pandemic, Ramadan cannot be observed in the same way this year. Mosques, surau and prayer halls will continue to be shut to avoid mass gatherings of people, but the sultan encouraged Muslims to perform tarawih prayers and tadarus Al-Quran at home.

The annual Gerai Ramadan has also been cancelled this year as a precautionary measure.

Special congregational prayers that take place at the mosque on the first morning of Hari Raya will not be held this year, His Majesty said, and traditions such as visiting friends and family during the festive season will also have to be deferred.

He urged Bruneians to be patient in facing the situation, and reminded them that COVID-19 should not stop Muslims from fasting.

Brunei has recorded 138 cases of coronavirus since the first case was reported on March 9. High testing rates, strict quarantine measures and a slew of other preventive measures have stemmed the spread of the outbreak, although health officials have said it is still to early to lift restrictions.

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