Face masks and ‘prayer shifts’ as Italy’s Muslims return to mosque

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Muslim men pray on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, as Italy eases some of the lockdown measures put in place during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rome on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Muslim men pray on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, as Italy eases some of the lockdown measures put in place during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rome on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Muslim men pray on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, as Italy eases some of the lockdown measures put in place during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rome on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 May 2020

Face masks and ‘prayer shifts’ as Italy’s Muslims return to mosque

  • Worshippers at Milan’s Via Meda Mosque are required to wear masks
  • ‘Prayer shifts’ have been introduced to avoid overcrowding

ROME: Mosques in Italy are beginning to reopen their doors for the first time in months, implementing government measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Worshippers at Milan’s Via Meda Mosque are required to wear masks and there are ‘prayer shifts’ to avoid overcrowding.

“It is for our safety, for our good, so we must do as required,” one worshipper named Saleh told Arab News. “This way we reduce risks for us and our families. At least we are back here to pray together. It’s a really good thing. I have been waiting long for this moment. Now we hope the pandemic will finish soon and that we can all go back to our lives, to our habits and customs without fear.”
Italy went into lockdown on March 9, with mosques closing that same date, and restrictions were eased earlier this month as the country embarked on a phased return to normality.
The capacity of the Via Meda Mosque has decreased from 250 to just 70, and it has been decided that Muslims will pray in shifts until the pandemic ends.
Posters in Italian and Arabic at the mosque’s entrance and on its walls urge everyone to wear masks and socks.
Prayer mats are sanitized between shifts so that the next person can use them safely. Shoes are placed on racks outside the room in a well-spaced fashion to avoid a crush. Handshakes and hugs are forbidden, so people greet each other by putting their right hand on the heart.
Imam Yaha Pallavicini used his sermon to thank Allah for the health of the whole community, and prayed that the last days of Ramadan could be lived “in a safe way so that physical and spiritual health of all the faithful, throughout Italy, may be preserved.”
In Vicenza, which is around 50 kilometres from Venice, WhatsApp was used to ensure that social distancing could be maintained and that only those who could fit in the place of worship would attend.
In Biella, an industrial city in the northwestern Piedmont region, authorities allowed the call to prayer to be transmitted on loudspeakers every Friday during Ramadan.
But most of Italy’s mosques remain closed until after the end of Ramadan following an appeal from the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy.
“We might not guarantee that the social distancing rules would be respected,” Imam Abdullah Tchina told Arab News, saying that a big turnout would be expected in the final part of the holy month.
May 18, which was the date set for the reopening of mosques, coincided with this important period of Ramadan and discouraged many imams to hold prayers, especially in smaller places of worship. “We have thus been able to balance the need for physical health with the spiritual one,” Yusuf Abd al-Hakim Carrara, from the national Italian Muslim association Coreis, told Arab News.
But the Grand Mosque in Rome, the largest in Europe, is “indefinitely closed” according to a note on its main gate.

Abdellah Redouane, secretary-general of the mosque’s Islamic Cultural Centre, invited Rome’s Muslims to keep complying with state rules about the containment of COVID-19 and to avoid gatherings. “Eid Al-Fitr can be naturally celebrated at home with families,” he said.


Italy’s Lombardy region to impose virus curfew

Updated 20 October 2020

Italy’s Lombardy region to impose virus curfew

  • The curfew from 11pm to 5am is expected to begin on Thursday night and last to November 13
  • More than 10,000 new Covid-19 infections were recorded in Italy on Friday for the time ever

ROME: Italy’s northern Lombardy region prepared Tuesday to impose a nighttime curfew, the most restrictive anti-coronavirus measure the country has seen since emerging from a national lockdown in the spring.
The curfew from 11pm (2100GMT) to 5am is expected to begin on Thursday night and last to November 13.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza gave his consent late Monday to the more restrictive measure proposed by the regional government, after an hours-long meeting.
“It’s an appropriate and symbolically important initiative that shouldn’t have particularly serious economic consequences,” Regional President Attilio Fontana said in the newspaper La Repubblica on Tuesday.
More than 10,000 new Covid-19 infections were recorded in Italy on Friday for the time ever, with Lombardy the hardest hit region, as it was in the beginning of the health crisis in February.
The region, which includes Italy’s financial hub of Milan, reported 1,687 new cases on Monday, with Italy’s southern Campania region coming a close second with 1,593.
Since Italy became the first hard-hit European country earlier this year, more than 36,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the country.
On Saturday, Lombardy ordered its bars to shut at midnight and prohibited the consumption of food and drink in public outside areas.
Italy has put in place recent restrictions to try to stem the new wave of infections, but none have so far imposed a curfew.
They include banning amateur contact sports, such as football matches, school trips, and restricting bars and restaurants to table service after 6pm.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said he does not envision another country-wide lockdown, which would further sap Italy’s struggling economy, but has said that he would not rule out limited ones.
Lombardy’s curfew is expected to only allow people to leave their home for reasons of health, work or necessity.
The new decree will also call for large shopping centers to be shut on weekends, according to Italian media reports.