Coronavirus delays Athens mosque opening

A long-delayed mosque in Athens will open later this year as the coronavirus pandemic impeded preparations. (File/AFP)
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Updated 27 June 2020

Coronavirus delays Athens mosque opening

  • The mosque project began in 2007 in the face of strong opposition from the influential Orthodox Church of Greece
  • The Athens mosque, which can accommodate some 350 people, was completed with state funding in 2019

ATHENS: A long-delayed mosque in Athens will open later this year as the coronavirus pandemic impeded preparations, officials said this week.
The mosque project began in 2007 in the face of strong opposition from the influential Orthodox Church of Greece and nationalist sentiment against neighbouring majority-Muslim Turkey.
"Procedures were to a certain extent delayed during the pandemic, but we are speeding up work and aim to have the mosque running by the end of autumn," the ministry of education and religious affairs said in a statement to AFP.
Another government source said the end of October was a realistic target "barring another lockdown".
Greece was under occupation by the Ottoman Empire for centuries, and Athens is the only European capital without an official mosque.
The Athens mosque, which can accommodate some 350 people, was completed with state funding in 2019.
The only officially sanctioned mosques in Greece are in the northern border region with Turkey where some 150,000 members of a Muslim minority live.
Elsewhere in the country, Muslims - many of them refugees and migrants - pray in improvised sites in flats and basements.
There are some 250,000 Muslims in Athens alone, according to estimates.
Earlier this week, the Muslim association of Greece protested against the imminent closure of a prayer hall in the port city of Piraeus that had operated since 1989.
"Muslims (in Greece) are far from reaching equality in law and society," the association said in a Facebook post.
The Piraeus hall lacked a permit, and will allowed to reopen if it passes evaluation, the government source said Friday.
"All who apply receive a permit, if their papers are in order," the source said.
The education and religious affairs ministry said it has sanctioned another seven prayer halls in the greater Athens area, including one near Piraeus.


UK scientists to test extent of airborne COVID-19 transmission

Updated 3 min 49 sec ago

UK scientists to test extent of airborne COVID-19 transmission

  • COVID-19 is known to be present in droplets produced from the mouth and nose from people coughing, sneezing, talking or just breathing
  • Findings could affect governments’ safety measures based on climate, air quality

LONDON: A team of UK scientists is set to discover how long COVID-19 can survive in airborne particles.
In an experiment slated to commence on Monday, researchers at the University of Bristol will test whether the virus is at its most virulent in respiratory droplets, or whether it remains active over significant periods in tiny aerosol particles.
COVID-19 is known to be present in droplets produced from the mouth and nose from people coughing, sneezing, talking or just breathing.
But these remain airborne, and therefore active, for a much shorter period of time than aerosol particles before dropping to the floor.
This is the reasoning behind multiple governments’ enforcing social-distancing measures of 2 meters, among other things. 
But were the virus able to survive in much smaller aerosol particles, it is possible that it could travel greater distances — carried by air currents and ventilation systems — and infect more people, rendering social-distancing measures less effective. 
The theory has gained traction as examples from across the world of groups of people being infected despite observing social-distancing measures, or doing so in poorly ventilated spaces.
Prof. Jonathan Reid, who is leading the Bristol team, told The Guardian newspaper: “We know that when bacteria or viruses become airborne in respiratory droplets they very quickly dry down and can lose viability, so that’s an important step to understand when assessing the role of airborne transmission in COVID-19.”
Allen Haddrell, a scientist at the University of Bristol, said: “We can effectively mimic a cold, wet British winter — or even a hot, dry summer in Saudi Arabia — to look at how these dramatic differences in environmental conditions affect how long the virus remains infectious while suspended in air.”
Results will possibly ready by the end of the week for external scrutiny by the broader scientific community.
Despite excitement surrounding the experiment, some scientists have urged caution, especially regarding the scope of practical applications that could result from it.
“I think the science is fine, and will show the principal that you can modify the environment to reduce the survivability of the virus,” said Dr. Julian Tang, a consultant virologist at Leicester Royal Infirmary.
“But the applicability might be tricky, depending on the environmental factors they identify. You’re not going to sit in a theater or cinema if the temperature is 35 degrees and the humidity is 80 percent.”