Turkey suspends mass prayers, shuts cafes, cinemas to contain virus

Fahrettin Koca
Fahrettin Koca

TURKEY has suspended congregational prayers in mosques and closed cafes, cinemas, and sports venues to contain the spread of coronavirus as the confirmed cases climbed to 47.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Monday that Turkey had 29 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 47 since the first positive test was announced on March 11.

All 29 people had “directly or indirectly” been in contact with the U.S., the Middle East or Europe, including three who returned from the Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, Koca tweeted.

While Turkish authorities haven’t reported any deaths from the COVID-19 disease, the government has ramped up measures to ward off an outbreak.

Koca said flights to six more countries would be banned, bringing the total to 20 nations.

The latest travel ban – to Britain, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates – will go into effect at 8 am (0500 GMT) on Tuesday.

Earlier, Turkey’s highest religious authority suspended all mass services, including Friday prayers, at mosques across the country.

Ali Erbas, the head of the religious affairs directorate (Diyanet), said that mosques would remain open for individuals, but not for group prayers.

“Until the danger of spreading the new type of coronavirus disappears, it has become necessary to interrupt prayers with the community in mosques and masjids [small mosques or prayer rooms], especially Friday prayers,” Erbas told a press conference.

The decision affects tens of thousands of mosques across the country.

The Diyanet head urged the faithful to pray at home.

Noting that one of the main tenets of Islam is to protect people’s lives, Erbas recounted how the prophet Mohammed had cautioned believers not to leave places hit by the plague and to respect quarantine instructions.

The Interior Ministry ordered the nationwide closure of cafes, restaurants, cinemas, wedding halls, casinos, and amusement parks.

Also included on the list of temporary closures were indoor children’s playgrounds, internet cafes, Turkish baths, spas, massage parlours, shisha lounges, swimming pools, and sports facilities, the ministry said. There was no indication of how long these measures would last.

The ministry had earlier called for bars, discos, and nightclubs in all 81 provinces to be shuttered.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul announced additional measures, such as postponing court hearings.

The government has already closed schools and universities and quarantined thousands of pilgrims returning from Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will on Wednesday hold a coordination meeting on the fight against the new virus and address the nation on the next steps to be taken, his communications director Fahrettin Altun said. (dpa/NAN)

– Mar. 17, 2020 @ 10:59 GMT |

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