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Jakarta Post

In Jakarta, religious communities adjust traditions to prevent COVID-19

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, March 9, 2020   /   05:33 pm
In Jakarta, religious communities adjust traditions to prevent COVID-19 The Jakarta Cathedral. (Shutterstock/-)

With a smile and a heartwarming "peace be with you” churchgoers exchanged greetings, but there were neither handshakes nor hugs during Sunday mass at the Jakarta Cathedral in Central Jakarta as people took precautionary measures against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease.

Jakarta Archdiocese vicar-general Samuel Pangestu has advised parishioners to avoid physical greetings and direct contact with fellow church members to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 -- which has taken thousands of lives globally after it emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year.

Pastor Albertus Hani Rudi Hartoko of Jakarta Cathedral said that there were several changes in the ceremonies at weekly church services, including in the Communion practices.

The communion bread is now no longer given directly to the mouth, but in the hands of the congregants, while the receiving of holy water is optional.

Jakarta Cathedral also encourages its members to bring their own hand sanitizer and recommends churchgoers suffering from respiratory illnesses or fever to pray at home.

The mass practice of kissing the church's crucifix during the veneration of the cross in the upcoming Good Friday on April 10 will be scrapped and members of the church have been advised to bring their own cross, according to Albertus.

"However, there is no need to panic over the spread of the virus," Albertus told The Jakarta Post. "Do not believe in hoaxes and maintain personal hygiene and a healthy lifestyle.”

He suggested to congregants on Sunday that they boost their immune system by consuming traditional jamu (herbal drinks) and doing daily physical exercise.

On Sunday, the cathedral was still packed with churchgoers.

"I am okay with these changes because we are aware of the current situation," Susyana Suwadie, the church spokesperson said.

"Even before the coronavirus outbreak, I was always irritated by anyone sneezing or coughing without covering their mouth or cleaning their hands afterward. Indeed, maintaining personal hygiene is a must," she said.

The Health Ministry reported on Sunday two more patients had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total confirmed cases in Indonesia to six. Authorities said Case 5 was being treated at the Sulianti Saroso Infectious Diseases Hospital in North Jakarta, while Case 6 was being treated at the Persahabatan Central General Hospital in East Jakarta.

Panic buying of everyday goods, ranging from face masks to instant noodles, hit supermarkets and drugstores across Jakarta following the government’s announcement of the first two cases last Monday.

In South Jakarta, the management of Nurul Hidayah mosque cleaned the mosque on Sunday using disinfectant.

The effort followed an instruction by the Indonesian Mosque Council (DMI) calling on mosque managements to participate in COVID-19 containment efforts in Indonesia, which is home to at least 800,000 mosques.

"Nurul Hidayah mosque is an example that I wish other mosques would follow," DMI chairman and former vice president Jusuf Kalla said while inspecting the mosque on Sunday.

"I recommend Muslims bring their own sajadah [prayer mats] because the mosque’s mats are used by many people. If you're unable to bring your own sajadah, at least bring a small handkerchief as a mat for your face when bowing down during salat [prayers]," he said.

According to Kalla, the DMI is cooperating with the company Unilever to provide 20,000 bottles of disinfectant to be distributed to mosques in Jakarta. He said that mosque managements would be trained on how to use the disinfectant optimally.

The DMI is also collaborating with Jakarta-based pest control company Turacon Wirasta in the campaign.

The Jakarta administration has called on people to stay calm but remain cautious by exercising a healthy lifestyle and personal cleanliness.

The city launched on Friday, a website specifically designed for the COVID-19 response and information, following the first two cases of COVID-19 being confirmed in Indonesia. The website provides updates on the number of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients in the capital, as well as information on how to prevent the transmission of the disease.

Meanwhile, at the Hian Thian Siang Tee Chinese Buddhist temple in South Jakarta, visitors seemed unconcerned about the disease. Worshippers visited the temple without face masks.

The temple's management said the number of temple-goers remained the same and the twice-a-month prayers were held with no changes regarding the coronavirus outbreak. 

"We believe it is God who gives life and takes it from us, anytime God wants it," Joti Mano from the temple's management told the Post.

The World Health Organization advises people to maintain a distance of at least 1 meter from others and to wash their hands frequently. 

The new strain of coronavirus can spread from person to person through droplets from the nose or mouth when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. It can also be transmitted by touching objects or surfaces where these droplets land before touching the eyes, nose or mouth. (trn)

If you want to help in the fight against COVID-19, we have compiled an up-to-date list of community initiatives designed to aid medical workers and low-income people in this article. Link: [UPDATED] Anti-COVID-19 initiatives: Helping Indonesia fight the outbreak