Ramadhan ushered in amid COVID-19 fight

Azlan Othman

Muslims in Brunei Darussalam welcomed the holy month of Ramadhan starting today amid a different atmosphere brought about by COVID-19.

Today is the first day of fasting, but Muslims in the Sultanate will be largely confined to their homes. Brunei Darussalam, as well as the rest of the world, is currently fighting the COVID-19 outbreak. Muslims will enter this Ramadhan with mosques, suraus and religious halls temporarily closed.

Minister of Religious Affairs Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman said in a recent press conference that the extended temporary closure of mosques, suraus and religious halls was a difficult decision to make, especially during Ramadhan. “We are aware that the temporary closure is an important step to curb the spread of COVID-19. Sunnat Tarawikh prayers should be performed at home with family members only,” the minister had said.

The fasting month this year would be “markedly different” due to the COVID-19 outbreak with stricter social distancing measures. With no Ramadhan bazaar, which for some is a crucial source of income, some young entrepreneurs told the Weekend Bulletin the situation is far off from business-as-usual. “It’s vastly different this year. When there is Ramadhan expo, we earn a lot. Business has dropped like never before. Earnings could not cover the expenses for the month.

”We are now inclined to save money for emergency purposes if business is going downhill,” a businesswoman who wished to remain anonymous said. Ramadhan bazaars are an important staple for Bruneians, where they typically head to street vendors and purchase food for breaking fast as well as clothing for Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations.

Another vendor, who wished to be known only as Nia, who operates a cube store said business is way below than usual these days for the vendors. “But for myself, the family business backs us up, but vendors are complaining that stocks are not coming. We order a lot for Hari Raya expo but it got stuck in Miri and Limbang.”

In view of no Ramadhan bazaar this year, the government last week announced online services to assist entrepreneurs through www.ekadaibrunei.bn portal, which is an online portal providing web links to local e-Dagang (e-commerce) platforms, delivery and logistic providers and services.

It is hoped that the public, particularly Ramadhan bazaar entrepreneurs, will cooperate and support the e-Dagang project in assuring the business continuity for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country.

Community for Brunei, a virtual market platform, was launched to help MSMEs impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. With Community for Brunei, the objective is to provide a platform to gather and integrate the local community to help MSMEs sell their goods in the virtual market, and for the public to buy virtually and make payments digitally via debit or credit cards.

The Community for Ramadhan will be launched on the first of Ramadhan 1441 Hijrah. The Community of Ramadhan project will be under the www.communityforbrunei.com website and will provide the public a chance to experience the atmosphere of the Gerai Ramadhan online.