President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria was among African leaders who welcomed the holy month of Ramadan late Thursday, while cautioning that this year’s observance must be held with precautions because of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Buhari’s remarks followed the sighting of the moon that marks the beginning of the 30-day fast, and a time of reflection and care for others. Yet it comes as a challenge, with more than 200 nations now dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and urging their citizens to avoid large gatherings and communal meals.
“In this Ramadan period, the kind of socializing you are used to now risks spreading the coronavirus,” Buhari said.
Nigerians should avoid traditions like communal prayer but equally should not use the pandemic as an excuse to avoid Ramadan obligations either, he said.
Meanwhile in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated a ban on all gatherings, with the exception of funerals and work, during a Thursday night address to the nation. Muslim leaders in South Africa have filed a legal challenge against the ban, arguing that mosques should be at least partially open during Ramadan.
“Concerts, sporting events, and religious, cultural and social gatherings will not be allowed until it is deemed safe for them to continue,” Ramaphosa said. “The coronavirus is spread by contact between people. If people do not travel, the virus does not travel.”
Seventy-five percent of South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases – now at 3,635 – are concentrated in six urban centers, underscoring how important it is to maintain social distancing especially with the population density in Johannesburg, Cape Town and other cities. There have been 65 fatalities.
Nigeria has 873 confirmed cases, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 28 fatalities, among them Mallam Abba Kyari, the chief of staff for Buhari who died last week.
Image: Presidency South Africa