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Indonesian capital opens mosques as lockdown eased

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For many of Jakarta's Muslims it was the first time in months they were able to attend Friday prayers

For many of Jakarta's Muslims it was the first time in months they were able to attend Friday prayers (AFP Photo/Juni Kriswanto)

Indonesia's capital opened mosques Friday for the first time in nearly three months, as the megacity loosens a partial lockdown despite coronavirus cases mounting in the world's biggest Muslim majority nation.

Churches and other houses of worship also resumed service after Jakarta's governor Thursday announced an easing of restrictions, with shuttered offices, restaurants, shopping malls and tourist attractions slated to start operations in the coming weeks.

Mosques have remained open in some other parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago, the world's fourth most populous country.

But for many residents of Jakarta -- home to some 30 million -- it was the first time in months that Muslims have been able to attend Friday prayers to mark Islam's holy day.

Mohamad Fathi said he was "full of happiness" at the news after mass prayer was banned in mid-March, including in his at-risk district.

"The enthusiasm to attend Friday prayers was really high in my neighbourhood," said the 35-year-old father who lives in south Jakarta.

"It cheered me up and satisfied my longing for mass prayers," he said. "I'm very happy we're now allowed to return to pray."

The weekly service was shorter than usual as part of efforts to lower the risk of COVID-19 infections, he added.

Mosque-goers were also ordered to bring their own prayer mats and abide by social-distancing rules with temperature checks at the door.

East Jakarta resident Yung Bainus said he wasn't worried about getting sick despite the crowds.

"I'm not too worried if health protocols are strictly enforced," he said.

"It's important to wear a face mask, wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. Just follow the rules properly and God willing there will be no problem," he added.

Indonesia has confirmed more than 29,000 cases of coronavirus and 1,770 deaths, with infection rates slowing in Jakarta itself.

But the country of more than 260 million has among the lowest testing rates in the world.

Researchers estimate the true number of virus infections and fatalities nationwide is several times the official toll.