UAE bans prayers at all houses of worship, including mosques

Published March 16, 2020
A man, wearing a protective mask, walks down the street in Dubai on March 16, 2020. - No shisha pipe sessions, deserted streets, mosques and shopping malls, drones in the sky broadcasting public health warnings — the new coronavirus has turned life upside down in Gulf societies. — AFP
A man, wearing a protective mask, walks down the street in Dubai on March 16, 2020. - No shisha pipe sessions, deserted streets, mosques and shopping malls, drones in the sky broadcasting public health warnings — the new coronavirus has turned life upside down in Gulf societies. — AFP

The United Arab Emirates health ministry banned prayers at all houses of worship, including mosques, for four weeks starting Monday as part of measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The ministry also ordered the temporary suspension of wedding celebrations and other social parties for four weeks as of Wednesday, state news agency WAM said.

Meanwhile, Bahrain reported the Arab Gulf's first death from the coronavirus on Monday.

The 65-year-old Bahraini woman who died from the coronavirus had underlying health conditions, Bahrain's health ministry said on Twitter. The country has reported 221 cases, including dozens among citizens evacuated from Iran last week.

Bahrain state media on Sunday showed footage of a quarantine centre set up on a barren island connected to the mainland by a causeway. Dozens of beds ready for patients lined large marquees with air conditioning units, cupboards and colourful carpets.

Qatar

Qatar, where most of the population is made up of expatriates, reported 38 new cases including three Qataris who had been in Europe, state news agency QNA said. This took Qatar's tally to 439 and the total number of infections in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council to 1,021.

Member states have restricted entry and movement.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, which along with Kuwait suspended all international flights and closed most public spaces, said it was considering suspending work for the private sector after doing so for the government sector, except health and security.

“We hope citizens will stay at home and not go out unless needed,” Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al Rabiah told a news conference on Monday.

The kingdom ordered the private sector to give two-week mandatory sick leave for pregnant women and employees with conditions that leave them vulnerable, state media reported.

Restrictions in the Gulf

Dubai, the region's tourism and business hub, ordered bars and lounges to close until the end of March, according to a government circular issued on Monday.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi have closed gyms, public gardens, arcades and spas as well as stock market trading halls.

While restaurants remain open in the UAE, other Gulf states are now permitting only food delivery.

Qatar on Monday banned people from eating at restaurants and cafes, state media said, joining Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in doing so.

Oman on Monday suspended public Friday prayer congregations and cancelled all non-urgent surgery in hospitals.

Many of the coronavirus cases in the Gulf are linked to travel with Iran, which has recorded 853 deaths and 14,991 infections. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issued a new appeal on Monday for people to avoid unnecessary trips.

The UAE sent two planes carrying 32 tonnes of medical supplies, including gloves and surgical masks, to Iran on Monday, the UAE government said in a Twitter post.

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