Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday that mosques would no longer accept worshippers for the customary five daily prayers. In addition to, the weekly Friday prayer, in exceptional measures intended to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Prayers will only continue at the two holy mosques in Makkah and Madinah, state news agency SPA reported. It also cited a decision from the Council of Senior Scholars, the Kingdom’s highest religious body.
Mosques will close their doors temporarily but continue to issue the ritual call to prayer. It will direct people to pray in their homes rather than come to the mosque, SPA said.
Islamic Affairs Minister Abdulatif al-Sheikh told state television that facilities for washing the dead at mosques that have them would remain open with a restricted to a few people. Praying over the dead will only be permitted at the cemetery, not in the mosque, he added.
Saudi Arabia has taken drastic measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Those include suspending the Umrah pilgrimage, halting all international flights, and closing schools and most public establishments.
The Kingdom has also suspended work for all government employees, except those in the health, military and security sectors, and local media reported that the Council of Ministers had postponed its regular meetings for this week and next week.
A phone call from Macron
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, spoke by phone with French President Emmanual Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss global efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Neighboring Bahrain, which has reported 227 cases and the only death so far among the Gulf states, announced measures to counter the economic fallout, including covering electricity and water payments for individuals and firms and exempting tourist facilities from taxes – both for three months starting in April.
The island kingdom’s finance ministry also said it would double the size of its liquidity fund to 200 million dinars ($530 million) and that the central bank would raise banks’ lending capacity by 3.7 billion dinars ($9.8 billion) to postpone installments or provide additional financing for clients.
Kuwait reported on Tuesday seven new cases of the coronavirus, bring the total in the country to 130.
A health ministry spokesman said four of the patients were in intensive care, one of whom is in critical condition.
All the new cases were related to travel to the United Kingdom.
Twelve patients have so far recovered from the virus and 564 have ended their quarantine period; a total of 11,091 lab tests have been completed.
Oman said anyone entering the sultanate as of Tuesday would be quarantined. It had earlier imposed restrictions on entry to allow only Gulf citizens. It also closed all tourist sites and sports clubs and banned gatherings in public places over coronavirus fears.