Virus-hit Iran to reopen mosques for holy nights

Virus-hit Iran to reopen mosques for holy nights
Mosques in Iran have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
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Updated 12 May 2020

Virus-hit Iran to reopen mosques for holy nights

Virus-hit Iran to reopen mosques for holy nights
  • The Islamic republic shut its mosques and shrines in March as part of its efforts to contain the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of the novel coronavirus
  • Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said another 1,481 people tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours

TEHRAN: Virus-hit Iran will reopen its mosques for three nights over the next week so that worshippers can pray during one of the holiest times of year, a minister said Tuesday.
The Islamic republic shut its mosques and shrines in March as part of its efforts to contain the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The reopening was granted for Laylat Al-Qadr — a high point during the fasting month of Ramadan that marks when the Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad.
But Health Minister Saeed Namaki sounded a note of caution as he announced that worshippers would be allowed to attend mosques and ceremonies for three of the next five nights.
“The biggest strategic mistake is to think that coronavirus is finished,” he said in remarks broadcast on state television.
“At any time, we can go back to bad circumstances” due to “negligence,” said Namaki.
“Our priority is to hold ceremonies outdoors” such as “in stadiums,” he said, “so that social distancing is properly observed.”
Namaki said his ministry agreed in a meeting to help “organize ceremonies from midnight to 2:00 am during the nights of Qadr.”
He said the move came in response to “concern” expressed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but stressed the supreme leader “always supports all measures” to contain the virus.
All gatherings would need to respect “sanitary protocols to the maximum,” he added.
But he warned: “They shouldn’t blame the health ministry and say they wanted to open mosques but didn’t care about people’s health.”
His remarks came shortly before Iran announced another 48 deaths from the virus taking its overall toll to 6,733.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said another 1,481 people tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 110,767 since the start of the crisis.
Iran has struggled to contain its outbreak of the virus that causes COVID-19 since announcing its first cases in the Shiite holy city of Qom on February 19.
The government closed schools, postponed major events and banned inter-city travel but it has eased restrictions gradually since April 11.
It allowed mosques to reopen on May 4 in 132 counties where the virus was deemed to be under control.
And on Friday last week worshippers were able to attend the main weekly prayers for the first time in more than two months, except for in the capital.
The government warned on Monday of a setback in its efforts to contain the virus.
“We have regressed in Khuzestan due to (people) not observing health protocols,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said, referring to a southwestern province that is now the epicenter of the country’s outbreak.
“This can happen to any other province if we are not careful,” he added, noting that tighter measures would be reimposed in other places too if needed.
Experts inside and outside Iran have cast doubt on the country’s official COVID-19 figures, and say the real toll could be much higher.


Denmark halts UAE flights for five days over COVID-19

Denmark halts UAE flights for five days over COVID-19
Updated 38 min 7 sec ago

Denmark halts UAE flights for five days over COVID-19

Denmark halts UAE flights for five days over COVID-19
  • The statement said the UAE was communicating with Danish authorities “to clarify the details and cases”

COPENHAGEN: The UAE said on Friday it was in talks with Denmark after the Nordic country temporarily halted all flights arriving from the Gulf Arab state, a major travel hub, due to potentially unreliable coronavirus tests in Dubai.

Denmark’s transport ministry said the five-day travel restrictions, comes after concerns were raised about the coronavirus tests administered in Dubai before departure. It added it had taken the decision after a detailed tip-off, without elaborating.
“All accredited UAE testing centers are regularly subject to strict quality checks,” the UAE foreign ministry said, adding there are severe penalties for non-compliance with international standards to ensure the highest level of quality in testing.
The statement said the UAE was communicating with Danish authorities “to clarify the details and cases” behind the decision in order to guarantee the safety of all travelers.
Denmark earlier this month made it mandatory for travelers to show a negative test from the previous 24 hours before departure toward Denmark from all countries.
Late on Friday, Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said on Twitter 50 persons with COVID-19 had flown in from Dubai in January alone. 33 of those arrived after Denmark made it mandatory to test negative for COVID-19 before departure.
Several Danish celebrities, including former footballer Nicklas Bendtner, were criticized earlier this month after Danish media reported they had traveled to regional tourism hub Dubai on holiday despite the government advising against going abroad to limit the spread of the coronavirus.