No children, no toilets: Egypt sets out mosque reopening rules

Muslim worshippers pray as they maintain social distancing at Al-Azhar Mosque in the Egyptian capital Cairo. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 03 June 2020

No children, no toilets: Egypt sets out mosque reopening rules

  • Virus has killed 1,052 and infected 27,536

CAIRO: Banning children, wearing face masks and closing toilets are some of the rules that Egypt’s mosques must follow during the coronavirus pandemic, as a parliamentary committee on Wednesday discussed plans to welcome back worshippers.
A number of members from the Committee of Religious Affairs and Endowments backed the Ministry of Awqaf’s plan to open mosques on the condition that the Ministry of Health confirmed that the virus no longer posed a threat.
“By opening up all mosques we are contributing to less crowding in mosques, because if we open only a percentage of the mosques in the country, it will increase the number of worshippers who visit them, instead of having them spread throughout the many mosques in the country,” committee secretary Omar Hamroush said. “It is better to have all mosques operating while taking the necessary precautions and preventive measures to prevent the spread of the virus.” He emphasized the need to clean and disinfect mosques after each of the five daily prayers.
Should the Ministry of Health give the green light then mosques, which were sealed off in March in the wake of the outbreak, will accept worshippers but they will be expected to follow regulations announced by the Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa.
They include wearing a protective face mask at all times, keeping a safe distance between rows of worshippers and for each person to have their own prayer mat. Toilets and ablution areas will be closed and there will be a limit to the amount of time spent in the mosque. Children will not be allowed in.
The Ministry of Awqaf’s plan also includes a system for arranging worshippers. There is to be a minimum of 1.5 meters between each person and the same distance between each row of people.
Committee undersecretary, Shoukry El-Gendy, supported the ministry’s plans for reopening mosques and smaller places of worship - zawiyas - and the proposed precautionary measures. But he added that much depended on the congregations themselves.  
“We are counting on the cooperation of worshippers and mosque goers,” he said.
He added that people’s concerns about crowding would be allayed as they could go to mosque in shifts rather than everyone heading there at the same time.
The decision to open mosques has not yet been broached by the Egyptian government as discussions have been limited to the ministry and parliament. Some fear that opening mosques too soon may contribute to the spread of the virus.
Dr. Abdel-Samie Ahmed, who has been working in a quarantine hospital, told Arab News that any decision to open up mosques must be studied carefully according to instructions issued by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, taking into account the increasing number of coronavirus cases in Egypt during the past few days.
As of Wednesday, the virus had killed 1,052 and infected 27,536.
Ahmed said that if mosques were open then zawiyas must be excluded from the decision, especially because of their limited space and a lack of proper ventilation.


Iran reports COVID-19 death every five minutes, hospitals struggle

Updated 26 min 51 sec ago

Iran reports COVID-19 death every five minutes, hospitals struggle

  • Some experts have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus tolls

DUBAI: Hospitals in many Iranian provinces are running out of capacity to handle COVID-19 cases, health authorities say, with novel coronavirus now killing around 300 people a day or one person every five minutes.

Authorities have complained of poor social distancing, and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said the pandemic could cause 600 daily deaths in coming weeks if Iranians failed to respect health protocols in the Middle East’s hardest-affected country.

A caption that ran on state television news said an Iranian died of novel coronavirus every five minutes, a rate that corresponds to daily death tallies reported by the authorities of just above or below 300 over the past 20 days.

Health Ministry spokesman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV on Sunday that 32,616 people had died of the disease and the number of confirmed cases had reached 568,896.

Some experts have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus tolls. A report by the Iranian parliament’s research center in April suggested that the coronavirus tolls might be almost twice as many as those announced by the health ministry.

The report said that Iran’s official coronavirus figures were based only on the number of deaths in hospitals and those who had already tested positive for the coronavirus.

Schools, mosques, shops, restaurants and other public institutions in Tehran have been closed since Oct. 3. As COVID-19 cases and deaths continued to hit record levels, the closure was extended until Nov. 20, state TV reported.

Officials said “extreme measures and limitations” will be imposed in at least 43 counties across the country for one week, where the infection rates have been alarming. TV reported that 21 one of Iran’s 31 provinces were on a coronavirus red alert.

Iran has blamed US sanctions for hampering Tehran’s efforts to tackle the outbreak. Washington, accusing Iran of “incompetent and deadly governance,” has refused to lift sanctions that were reimposed after 2018 when Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers.