Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 2 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Places of worship to reopen as UAE reports 449 new cases

Places of worship will open from July 1 with safety measures to protect worshippers

Places of worship will reopen across the UAE as of July 1, authorities announced on Monday.

During the UAE's daily briefing, officials said safety measures will be in place to ensure worshippers are kept safe.

Mosques, temples and churches were closed on March 16 to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

On Monday, Dr Saif Al Dhaheri, spokesman for the National Authority for Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management, said most mosques would reopen for daily prayers but Friday prayers were not yet permitted.

He said capacity would be capped at 30 per cent and worshippers should perform ablution at home before attending the mosque for prayer.

Other safety measures include:

  • Maintaining physical distancing of three metres among worshippers
  • Banning gatherings and any greetings such as handshakes
  • Encouraging worshippers to frequently sanitise their hands
  • Worshippers must wear a face mask at all times
  • Worshippers must bring their Qurans for reading and their own prayer mats, which they cannot leave in the mosque
  • All worshippers must download Al Hosn application

Dr Al Dhaheri said elderly people or children under 12, and anyone with a chronic illness, should not attend prayers.

"Individuals in contact or living with someone who is receiving treatment for Covid-19 should not go to a mosque until the patient recovers, to protect others," he said.

"Any infections detected may result in the closure of places of worship again."

Some places will remain closed, including roadside mosques, those in industrial areas and prayer rooms in malls.

As we reopen the churches, we need to remain aware of the importance of keeping each other safe, and to continue praying for those on the front-line

Andy Thompson, St Andrew’s Church

Further details, including a comprehensive list of those places of worship set to reopen, are expected be released by religious authorities in the coming days.

Rev Canon Andy Thompson, senior chaplain at St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi, said he was grateful for the decision.

"One thing for sure, I have really missed my congregation and I am looking forward to seeing them again," he said.

"It has been an interesting season for religious communities and we have seen creative online ministries emerge.

"Yet, as we reopen the churches, we need to remain aware of the importance of keeping each other safe, and to continue praying for those on the front line."

Mohammed Al Hasan, 27, an imam at the Port Saeed Mosque in Deira, Dubai, said he had prepared for the reopening for weeks.

Mr Al Hasan had a Covid-19 test this month, which is obligatory for all imams, muezzins and caretakers before reopening.

He and his father, who is also an imam, prepared their mosque together, placing stickers on the plush carpet at three-metre intervals.

Then they took photos for Awqaf approval, before officials came for a final inspection to check everything was in order.

“Alhamdulillah, now they’ve announced it and it’s like a joy," Mr Al Hasan said. "Imagine praying Eid at home, how different it was.

"In terms of reward nothing will be reduced, that’s for sure, but the feeling was different.

"There’s that feeling that you get in the masjid. You meet people, you exchange greetings, preach and that all changed.”

Neighbours and members of his congregation stayed in touch throughout the lockdown.

Now, Mr Al Hasan looks forward to seeing them face to face.

“You can say the calm of the heart has returned,” he said. "Calm, tranquillity, peace of mind.

"It’s like someone has lost the treasure and found it again.”

On Monday, the UAE reported 449 new cases of Covid-19, raising the tally to 48,246.

The infections were discovered as 43,551 tests were conducted across the country. The UAE has now carried out about 3.5 million tests since January.

Authorities said 665 had recovered from the virus, taking the total number of people given the all-clear to 37,076. One patient died, raising the death toll to 314.

Dr Amna Al Dahak, a spokeswoman for the UAE government, said there were 10,856 active cases around the country.

"Today, the percentage of recoveries has reached 77 per cent of the total number of infections," Dr Al Dahak said.

"The recovery average is increasing based on the efforts of the front-line workers."

She said that as of June 1, the daily average of recoveries exceeded 660.

Dr Al Dahak said that, although the UAE continued to take steps to resume economic activity and "normality across sectors, this requires a high level of awareness among individuals".

On Monday, it was also announced that restrictions on boating have been lifted.

Excursion boats and personal and commercial yachts can be used with a passenger capacity limit of 50 per cent.

The use of jetskis is also allowed but limited to one person at a time.

Updated: June 30, 2020 01:41 PM

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