JEDDAH: As the coronavirus continues to cross more borders, the global health crisis hit a milestone on Friday when the total number of cases topped 100,000. In Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, prayers resumed at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, with precautions in place.
COVID-19, which has already claimed nearly 3,400 lives, has spread to more US states, at least four additional countries and even breached the halls of the Vatican.
As the international markets continue to fall, the virus is increasingly threatening livelihoods as well as lives. US President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion bill containing measures designed to tackle the crisis.
In Geneva, the World Health Organization, the UN’s health agency, said it has received applications for 40 potential virus tests and 20 vaccine candidates are in development. Numerous clinical trials of experimental drugs designed to combat the virus are also underway, it added.
Uncertainty continues to surround the situation in Iran, one of the worst-affected nations, and whether the authorities there can control the epidemic. The number of reported infections in the country rose to more than 4,700 on Friday, with 124 deaths.
The head of the World Food Programme, the UN’s food agency, warned of the potential for “absolute devastation” as the effects of the outbreak ripple through Africa and the Middle East. India is scrambling to stave off an epidemic that could overwhelm its underfunded, understaffed health care system.
In the US, the number of confirmed cases stands at more than 230, across 18 states. China reported 143 new cases on Friday, and the numbers continue to grow in Europe. The number of cases in Lebanon stands at 22.
Worshipers attended Friday prayers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah for the first time since restrictions were announced by Saudi Arabia. At the former, groups of people prayed on the ground and top floors, on roofs and in the northern expansion area.
During his sermon at the Grand Mosque, Sheikh Abdullah Awad Al-Juhani said the emergency procedures implemented by the authorities to prevent the spread of the virus were in accordance with Shariah.
The Sacred Chamber in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which contains the graves of Prophet Muhammad and his companions, has been closed to worshipers.
Work to disinfect the mosques, using eco-friendly substances, has been stepped up. Authorities are purifying the air inside the Grand Mosque nine times a day, and sterilizing it with UV radiation before diffusing it throughout the mosque using special air-conditioning equipment.