Egypt closes mosques, churches, archaeological sites

Cairo, Mar 21 (efe-epa).- Egyptian authorities on Saturday decided to shut down mosques, Coptic churches and archaeological sites to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

In a country where 85 percent of its 100 million people are Muslim, the government decided to “stop Friday and congregational prayers and close all mosques (…) and all small mosques and chapels from now on and for a period of two weeks.”

Mosques will continue singing the call for prayers five times a day, but the faithful are to pray at home, authorities said in a statement.

Al-Azhar mosque’s Imam Ahmed al Tayeb also announced the temporary suspension of Friday and congregational prayers at Egypt’s main Muslim temple.

The most important thing is “the safety of the faithful until the coronavirus epidemic is over,” he stressed.

Al-Azhar Council, the main Islamic Sunni authority in the world, had issued a ruling on Sunday giving the green light to suspending congregational prayers across the country.

The Standing Committee of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Church presided by Pope Tawadros II, ruled the closure of all temples and the suspension of “ritual services, masses and activities” until further notice.

However, funerals services will be allowed with the presence of only the deceased’s family in specific Coptic churches.

Between 10 and 15 percent of Egyptians are Copts.

“The church calls on the Copts in Egypt and abroad not to be complacent with the current crisis and to commit themselves to the measures announced by the relevant authorities, to effectively contribute to avoiding a catastrophe,” the church added.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced on Saturday the closure of all the museums and archaeological sites starting 23 March until the end of the month to sterilize, disinfect and take precautionary measures working with the Ministry of Health.

On 19 March, Egypt suspended all flights until 31 March, which prompted practically all tourists in the country to bring their departure dates forward.

The impact of the virus will cost the aviation sector loses of $140 million, according to the government’s forecasts.

The Egyptian Health Ministry has reported 285 coronavirus cases and eight deaths, while 39 patients have recovered. EFE-EPA


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