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March 13, 2020 10:56 am

Preparing for Coronavirus Lockdown, Kuwait Asks Muslims to Pray at Home

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Nurses wait to admit expatriates to a makeshift coronavirus testing center at the Mishref Fair Grounds in Kuwait City, Kuwait, March 12, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Stephanie McGehee.

Kuwait’s religious authorities asked Muslims to pray at home on Friday as the emirate prepares to enter a period of virtual lockdown to fight the spread of the new coronavirus.

“The doors of the mosques will stay closed,” said the ministry of religious endowment in a statement, citing a religious decree, or fatwa. “The fatwa removes the need to attend prayers on Friday in mosques, and authorizes having them at home, to protect the people from coronavirus.”

Kuwait confirmed 20 additional cases in the past 24 hours, reporting a total of 100 to Friday, the state news agency KUNA said.

The government announced on Wednesday that passenger flights will be canceled for an undetermined period starting at midnight on Friday to and from Kuwait’s only international airport.

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The measures also provide for a two-week public holiday, ending on March 29, and the closure of gyms, public gardens and the popular Friday market. Restaurants and coffee shops are only allowed to keep delivery services open.

Vital services, including oil production, are excluded from the ruling. Kuwait National Petroleum said on Friday strategic reserves of oil products were at a “safe” level and all measures taken to deal with emergencies.

Bahrain ordered the release of hundreds of prisoners on Thursday, in one of the biggest pardons since the 2011 uprising against the monarchy, according to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) which linked the decision to efforts to contain the virus.

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa issued a decree granting pardon for 901 prisoners. A further 585 prisoners will spend the remainder of their sentences in rehabilitation and training programs, the state-run Bahrain news agency reported.

Dozens more cases of coronavirus have been registered in the Gulf Arab states over the past 24 hours. Saudi Arabia reported 17 additional cases taking its total to 62.

More than 700 infections have been reported to Friday in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. No deaths have been announced so far. Authorities say most of those infected had traveled to Iran, the regional epicenter of the outbreak, or been in contact with returnees.

Iran reported 514 deaths and a total of 11,364 cases on Friday.

Qatar has registered 262 cases, Bahrain 210 and the United Arab Emirates 85.

In the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways announced the suspension of flights to and from Rome and Milan on Friday, from March 14. The death toll in Italy passed 1,000, in Europe’s deadliest outbreak.

In Dubai, the UAE business and international transit hub, Emirates airline suspended until further notice all flights to and from Italy, except Rome.

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