JOHANNESBURG: A powerful Muslim body in South Africa has cautioned the community members about Eid turning into a "super-spreader" of the deadly coronavirus, urging them to forego the traditional ways of celebrating the festival.
The Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa (MJCSA) issued a statement on Friday, calling on Muslims to not to engage in the traditional ceremonies and prayers associated with Eid.
The community members will have to forego their usual practice of meeting for communal prayers at open spaces or visits to cemeteries, friends and family on the festival due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
"Eid can potentially become a super-spreading event, which results in many more people dying, especially if people disobey lockdown regulations and start visiting family (as) it will lose its effect if people start visiting each other at home.
Please avoid physically getting together as it puts yourself and your family at risk, the statement said.
The country has been under a nationwide lockdown since March 27.
The president had last month announced a five-phase plan to gradually ease the lockdown imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
For over a century, Muslims in the country's first colonised city, Cape Town, have gathered in large numbers on the beach front to eagerly await the sighting of the new crescent moon to signal the end of Ramzan and the advent of Eid the following day.
This would also have been the case this Saturday, but now the MJCSA has called on Muslims to stay away, apparently for only the second time since the tradition started.
Elders recall that the only time there had been a break was during the Second World War.
Cape Town is in the Western Cape Province, which has become the epicentre of the coronavirus in the country.
The Western Cape is in an exponential phase with the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Already there are reports of some hospitals filling up rapidly with critically-ill COVID-19 cases. We have seen a younger spectrum of people dying compared with international figures, the MJCSA said.
The MJCSA would therefore like to request (that) the community should not gather at the moon-sighting points as is customary. We recommend that families stay home on Eid day and not visit their families.," it said.
The tradition of thousands of people gathering at open spaces, called Eid Gahs, after dawn for the special Eid morning prayers will also not be followed.
Across the country, Muslim organisations have also asked people to stay away from cemeteries that they visit on Eid day to offer prayers for their deceased family members.
A plea has also been made to people to refrain from visiting their families for the usual large gatherings for lunch or dinner, and rather to greet each other through social video and video calls.
Meanwhile, religious leaders from all faiths met President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday, urging him to allow opening of churches, mosques, temples and synagogues with strict control measures.
However, no decision was taken on the matter.
According to the Johns Hopkins University data, South Africa has so far reported 20,125 confirmed cases and 397 deaths.