Muslims across Bangladesh celebrated another muted Eid-ul-Fitr Friday without shaking hands and hugging each other thrice after the special prayers amid a host of health protocols put in place during the holiday.
Eid means unbound joy, but once again the Muslims had to hold back the feeling before and after Eid prayers as health restrictions did not allow for the traditional exchange of hugs (kolakoli) among fellow devotees.
Celebration robbed of by pandemic
This is the second consecutive year that Muslims celebrated their largest religious festival under coronavirus restrictions that cast shadows over the festival's mass gatherings and family reunions.
From Indonesia to Bangladesh, governments have imposed restrictions to contain the spread of the virus during Eid, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Many Covid-hit countries, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Indonesia, imposed curbs, shut shops and even some mosques.
Like the previous year, this year's Eid in Bangladesh was celebrated without any outdoor programme as the government imposed restrictions on all social gatherings and urged the devotees to celebrate the festival with only family members indoors instead of visiting relatives' houses and outings in the wake of the pandemic.
The religious affairs ministry called for the devotees to pray at their nearest mosques instead of the Eidgah and open spaces.
Following the directives, no Eid congregation was held at open spaces, including at the National Eidgah on the High Court premises in the capital this year as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic still prevails.
Also, the historic Eid congregation in Kishoreganj's Sholakia Maidan was called off like the previous year.
Most devotees offered Eid prayers at local mosques throughout the country as advised by the ministry, maintaining health guidelines.
In the capital, people performed Eid prayers in phases. Five Eid congregations were held at the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka – the first one at 7am while the next four at 8am, 9am, 10am, and 10:45am.
Long queues of Muslims were seen since Friday morning in front of the capital's many mosques including Baitul Mukarram National Mosque.
Earlier, the ministry requested devotees to avoid shaking hands and the customary hugging after the prayers.
In line with that, people were seen attending the congregations wearing masks and leaving Eid prayer venues without a traditional shake of hands with one another or exchange of embraces.
Meanwhile, President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina greeted the nation in separate messages on the occasion of holy Eid-ul-Fitr. Sheikh Hasina on Thursday urged everyone to remain alert so that the celebrations of the festival do not cause coronavirus cases to spike.
No Eid greetings exchange at Bangabhaban
Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid Friday morning offered Eid-ul-Fitr prayers at Bangabhaban Darbar Hall instead of National Eidgah. Members of the president's family and senior officials of Bangabhaban also offered Eid prayers along with him, following all Covid safety protocols. Eid greetings exchange was not allowed this year due to the pandemic.
Television channels and radio stations are telecasting special programmes marking the occasion.
Special diets were served in hospitals, jails, government children's homes, centres for persons with disabilities, shelter homes, orphanages, vagrant welfare and destitute welfare centres.
The prime minister sent flowers, fruits and sweetmeats to the war-wounded freedom fighters and members of the martyred families at Martyred and War-wounded Freedom Fighters' Rehabilitation Centre in the capital's Mohammadpur as a mark of her good wishes for them.
'No eid joy for BNP over a decade'
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir Friday said their party leaders and activists have not been able to feel the joy of Eid for a decade as they have been subjected to killing, enforced disappearance and other repressive acts.
"Eid-ul-Fitr is being celebrated today (Friday) through lots of hardship and hard times. On one hand, there's a dangerous outbreak of Covid and there're serious repressive acts by the fascist government," he said.
The BNP leader said, "To be honest, we don’t have the joy of eid. Because our leaders and activists have been killed and implicated in false cases. At least our 35 lakh leaders and workers have been made accused (in different cases). Eid never comes to the families of those who are accused of false charges."
Covid death toll hits 12,102
Bangladesh lost 26 more lives to Covid-19, including nine in Dhaka and seven in Chattogram divisions, in the past 24 hours until Friday morning as Eid celebrations were underway with a dampened spirit due to the pandemic.
The latest number – lowest in 51 days – took the country's Covid-related death count to 12,102 as it celebrated another Eid-ul-Fitr with masks and prayers.
Bangladesh also confirmed 779,535 Covid-19 cases with 848 people coming out positive in 7,835 tests over the same period.
Another lockdown extension looms
The nationwide lockdown, imposed on April 5 to break the chain of Covid-19 infections and fatalities, has been extended several times to limit public movement or contain the surge in daily infections.
The ongoing lockdown, set to end on May 16, is likely to be extended by yet another week to keep close tabs on the situation as a mass exodus from the cities before Eid-ul-Fitr has stoked fears of a third wave of infections.
The lockdown measures fell flat as tens of thousands of people left Dhaka and other cities to join their families in home villages to celebrate Eid, despite stark warnings that the exodus could worsen the country's coronavirus outbreak.
The country's health authorities expressed concerns that the mass travel will spread the coronavirus and reverse a recent hard-won decline in cases following weeks of nationwide lockdown.
At least five people died and 50 others injured Wednesday in a stampede as thousands of people returned to their native villages from Dhaka and other cities for Eid-ul-Fitr, defying Covid-19 restrictions.