Muslims and Christians around the world were to meet on Sunday to celebrate their faith as Eid al-Fitr begins and churches reopen their locks, which presents new challenges for authorities trying to fight the coronavirus.
The faithful were preparing for the cult of Asia in Europe, where the exit from viral restrictions accelerated with Spain announcing a resumption of foreign tourism and its football league.
But the disease has continued to soar in large parts of South America, with the death toll in Brazil exceeding 22,000 and infections exceeding 347,000, the second highest number in the world.
Efforts to lift the blockages continued on both sides of the Atlantic, with US President Donald Trump sending a signal of his intentions with a golf trip – his first such trip since March 8.
With the number of infections stabilizing in the West, many governments are trying to move towards lighter social distancing measures which, they hope, will revive the dying business and tourism sectors.
In Spain, which has imposed one of the strictest closings in the world since mid-March, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sought to reassure potential visitors, claiming that from July 1, “the entry of tourists foreigners in Spain will resume under safe conditions ”.
The country’s La Liga football could return on June 8, he added.
Italy is also expected to reopen its borders to foreign tourists from June 3.
French churches were preparing to hold their first Sunday masses in more than two months after the government bowed to the decision to reopen them – provided appropriate precautions were taken.
Almost two weeks after the release of its judgment, France has finally authorized the reopening of mosques, synagogues and churches, but priests, pastors, rabbis and imams will still have to ensure that the appropriate security measures are in effect.
The faithful should wear masks, disinfectant gel should be close at hand and seats should be organized to ensure that people keep their distance from each other.
“My cell phone sizzles with messages!” Father Pierre Amar, a priest at Versailles, told AFP.
French mosques have nevertheless called on Muslims to stay home to mark the celebration of Eid al-Fitr marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. They said they would gradually resume service from June 3.
In Saudi Arabia, Eid prayers will take place in the two holy mosques in the cities of Mecca and Medina “without worshipers,” authorities said on Saturday as the kingdom began a five-day curfew after the infections had quadrupled since the start of Ramadan.
Whereas for Christians in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher will reopen on Sunday but with strict restrictions.
The virus remains a source of concern in the crowded Gaza region, recording its first death on Saturday.
Some Muslims in Indonesia were taking drastic steps to find their loved ones for Eid, with people in the world’s most populous Muslim country struggling to circumvent the lockdown rules.
The government has banned most trips across the country and many residents are turning to smugglers and false certificates.
A man told AFP that he had obtained a false certificate for his daughter to return home from the university in the capital, Jakarta.
“We want to celebrate Eid al-Fitr together like in previous years,” he said.
Globally, approximately 5.29 million people have been infected with the virus, which has killed 341,000 people, with Latin America the new global epicenter of the pandemic.
Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the severity of the epidemic, but faces mounting pressure amid rising death toll and the resignation of two of his health ministers in a matter of weeks.
Control intensified after a video of a cabinet meeting was released on April 22 – as the country quickly became a point of viral infection – in which Bolsonaro and his deputies barely mentioned the pandemic.
One of the few reports of COVID-19 came when the Minister of the Environment suggested that the government take advantage of the distraction created by the virus to soften the rules for protecting the environment.
Neighboring Peru is also in difficulty. The country of 32 million people has recorded more than 3,100 deaths.
In Ecuador, Tourism Minister Rosi Prado told AFP that the pandemic could cost the country’s important tourism sector $ 400 million a month.
As the economic toll of blockages increases around the world, efforts continue to revive broken economies.
In the United States, where the death toll is close to 100,000, Trump has aggressively pushed for the reopening of the economy, defying the advice of health experts.
The US economy has lost nearly 40 million jobs this year and many companies, most recently the car rental giant Hertz, have collapsed. But most states have started to relax their closings, and many reopened public beaches on Saturday.
“We’re just tired of being stuck in the house. There is not much else to do. So I came to the beach, “said stay-at-home mom Kayla Lambert while her two children were playing in the waves in Galveston, Texas.
Resistance to blockades among the agitated public is intensifying, with demonstrations in Spain and Germany this weekend.
Thousands of people gathered in Madrid on Saturday to demand an end to the rules and the resignation of Sanchez during a demonstration led by the far-right party Vox.
And in Britain, a scandal erupted following the revelation that a high government adviser had even flouted the rules.
Dominic Cummings was seen visiting his parents 250 miles from his home in London during the country’s isolation, despite symptoms of the virus.
He denies any wrongdoing but faces calls to quit smoking.
Laia Torra, in Barcelona’s UNESCO World Heritage Park Guell, said the park has become too crowded in recent years.
“It’s wonderful, it’s like going back 20 years,” she said while her children were playing.
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© 2020 AFP