Egypt will ban public gatherings during month of Ramadan
The Egyptian government announced on Tuesday it will prohibit public religious gatherings during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins April 23, to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The holy month is traditionally marked by fasting through the day by the faithful and a breaking of the fast with family members at sunset, as well as prayers at local mosques and family gatherings.
However, the public gatherings and large-scale social activities will be barred as part of anti-virus measures, including the mass iftars usually held for the poor and the Itikaf seclusion period, when observant Muslims spend the final 10 days of Ramadan praying and reflecting in mosques, Reuters reported.
Egypt, which has a population of about 100 million, has confirmed 1,300 cases of the virus as of Tuesday and more than 250 deaths.
The pandemic has forced several precautions in Muslim-majority nations, including in Indonesia, where the government ordered a planned 9,000-person pilgrimage halted and the worshipers quarantined. A similar gathering organized in Malaysia by the same missionary movement, Jamaat Tabligh, has been linked to the majority of that nation’s cases.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has banned all hajj pilgrimages to Mecca, which draws millions of worshippers in late July and early August, as well as the umrah pilgrimages held throughout the year.
The ban would aim to “limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic and prevent its access to the Two Holy Mosques, which are witnessing a permanent and intense flow of human crowds, which makes the issue of securing these crowds of utmost importance,” the Saudi government said. The Saudi government has called the ban “temporary” but did not specify how long it will last.
Meanwhile, Iran, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, canceled Friday prayers in its major cities starting in early March.