Egypt shuts mosques and churches over coronavirus fears

A few people walk in the vicinity of the closed al-Hussein mosque in Egypt's capital Cairo on March 20, 2020, after the country's Muslim religious authorities decided to put the Friday prayers on hold, in order to avoid gatherings and the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 disease. / AFP / Khaled DESOUKI
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Updated 21 March 2020

Egypt shuts mosques and churches over coronavirus fears

  • Egypt has so far registered 285 confirmed coronavirus cases including eight deaths
  • Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars said that governments had the right to shut mosques “to protect people from the coronavirus”

CAIRO: Egypt on Saturday ordered mosques and churches to shut their doors to worshippers in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, after calls for the government to follow steps taken by neighboring countries.
Egypt has so far registered 285 confirmed coronavirus cases including eight deaths.
Many on social media had criticized the government for not canceling weekly Friday prayers and masses at which worshippers crowd into mosques and churches.
The Ministry of Islamic Endowments said it would shut all mosques for two weeks “for the necessity of preserving souls,” but will allow them to broadcast prayer calls through loudspeakers.
Egypt has more than 100,000 mosques.
Al-Azhar, Egypt’s top Sunni Muslim authority, said it would shut its historic mosque in old Cairo starting from Saturday “for the safety of worshippers, and until the end of the coronavirus epidemic.”
On March 15, Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars said that governments had the right to shut mosques “to protect people from the coronavirus.”
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church on Saturday ordered all its churches to shut their doors and suspend masses for two weeks over coronavirus fears, it said in a statement.
The church also banned visits to monasteries and closed condolences halls attached to churches.
Each parish will name only one church for funeral prayers and the sermons will be restricted to the family of the deceased.
Christians represent around 10% of Egypt’s population of 100 million, according to unofficial estimates. The vast majority of the country’s Christians are orthodox.
The Coptic Catholic Church followed the same approach and ordered its followers on Saturday to pray at home until further notice. Its churches will open their doors for funeral prayers only, which will be restricted to family members.
Strengthening measures
Egypt, which has seen its tourism sector badly affected by the epidemic, will close all museums and archaeological sites starting March 23 until the end of the month for sanitization, the tourism ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Tourism revenue rose to a record high $12.57 billion in the financial year that ended in July 2019.
The most populous Arab country said on Thursday it would shut all cafes, shopping malls, sports clubs and nightclubs from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. local time every night until March 31. It exempted supermarkets, pharmacies, bakeries and neighborhood corner stores.
Egypt also shut schools and universities and moved to cut the number of public sector employees reporting to work in an effort to discourage crowding and slow the spread of the disease.
Flights were grounded on Thursday until the end of March, with the exception of outward-bound flights needed by foreign tourists.
The government said that during the flight ban and school shutdown, hotels and all educational facilities would be sanitised.


Germany warns dual nationals off Iran travel after arrest

Updated 2 min 20 sec ago

Germany warns dual nationals off Iran travel after arrest

BERLIN: Germany has warned citizens who also hold Iranian nationality against travelling to Iran after a dual national was arrested in October.
The foreign ministry did not name the detained citizen, but she has been identified as Nahid Taghavi by her daughter Mariam Claren.
"There have been several arrests of German-Iranian dual nationals in the past -- including most recently in October 2020, often without comprehensible reasons," said the German foreign ministry in an online update of its travel warning.
"Further detentions of people who also possess Iranian citizenship cannot be ruled out," it added, stressing therefore that "unnecessary travel by people who are also Iranian nationals is strongly discouraged".

 


Taghavi is a 66-year-old architect, who is reportedly being held in solitary detention in Iran.
Her daughter Claren said she has had no access to her since October 15, a day before she was believed to have been arrested.
Human rights group IGFM said Taghavi should be viewed as a political prisoner because she has for years been fighting for human rights in Iran, in particular for women's rights and freedom of expression.