Egypt’s Islamic and Christian religious authorities decided on Saturday to close down the country’s mosques and churches for two weeks as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Egypt’s Health Ministry has reported 285 confirmed infections, resulting in eight deaths. Of them, 39 cases have seen recoveries, with the patient discharged from hospital.
The Awqaf Ministry, which is in charge of mosques in Egypt, said in a statement that the five daily Muslim prayers and the Friday congregational prayers will be suspended across the country for two weeks.
Also, Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar, a major seat of Sunni Islamic learning, decided to suspend all prayers at the al-Azhar Mosque, one of Egypt’s oldest and largest mosques.
The Coptic Orthodox Church said in a statement that all churches will be shut down and masses and services will be suspended across Egypt for two weeks.
The Church also said that funerals would be limited to the family of the deceased in one church selected by each parish. Visits to monasteries are also banned.
Christians account for around 10 per cent of Egypt’s predominantly Muslim population of about 100 million. The vast majority of Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church.
In Iraq, Health Minister Jaafar Allawi called on Iraqis who took part in the commemoration of a revered Shiite imam to commit to two-weeks self-isolation.
Thousands of Iraqi Shiites streamed to the shrine of Musa al-Kadhim in Baghdad on Saturday, defying a curfew imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Iraq has registered more than 200 confirmed infections, including 17 deaths.
The United Arab Emirates meanwhile ordered a ban on the distribution of printed newspapers, magazines and leaflets to restaurants, hotels, clinics and other places where several people can use them one after another.
Subscribers and major outlets selling the printed material will be exempted, the country’s National Media Council said on Saturday, according to the official WAM news agency.
The new rules, brought in because of the spread of Covid-19, come in from Tuesday until further notice.