COVID-19: Mosques in Saudi Arabia could close again as cases spike

Cairo: A Saudi minister has warned that mosques in the kingdom can be closed again amid concerns over an increase in coronavirus cases.

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Last week, Saudi Arabia imposed a set of restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19, including a temporary ban on flights from 20 countries.

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Health authorities on Friday confirmed 327 new coronavirus cases and four more deaths, bringing the total number of infections in the kingdom to 369,575 and 6,393 related fatalities.

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“If we see a need to close mosques, we will not hesitate,” Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs and Call Abdulatif Bin Abdulaziz told state television Al Ekhbariya.

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He added that his ministry maintains coordination on mosques with competent agencies in the country including the ministries of health and interior as well as the Council of Senior Scholars, Saudi Arabia’s top Islamic body.

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Last May, Saudi authorities reopened mosques after a closure of two months to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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As part of the latest Saudi measures to curb an increase in the coronavirus cases, Minister Abdulatif has directed that in-present lectures in mosques suspended and turn online.

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Friday prayers

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Prayer timings as well as the duration between the Adhan (prayer call) and the start of the prayer have been curtailed. According to the ministerial directives, the time between the Adhan and performing the prayer is set at 10 minutes for all daily group prayers except for the Fajr (dawn) prayer, which are 20 minutes.

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Mosques now open 10 minutes before the prayer and close 10 minutes after. For the Friday congregation prayers, mosques open 30 minutes before the Adhan and close 15 minutes after the prayer end. The Friday sermon is set at a maximum of 15 minutes.

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Worshippers are obliged to use personal prayer rugs in mosques, wear the protective face masks and observe social distancing as part of earlier anti-virus precautions.

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The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has urged worshippers to report any “shortcoming or laxity” in implementing precautionary measures in mosques via the hotline 1933, the Saudi news agency SPA reported.

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