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March 14, 2020 1:31 pm
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Palestinians Suspend Prayers at Mosques, Churches to Fight Coronavirus

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Palestinian police officers stand guard outside the Church of the Nativity that was closed as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 6, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma.

The Palestinian Authority suspended prayers in mosques and churches in the West Bank on Saturday to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The Authority’s Religious Affairs Ministry asked Palestinians to worship at home.

“In light of the Health Ministry’s recommendation to minimize contact between people and to reduce gatherings as much as possible we call upon our Muslim people in Palestine to hold their prayers at home,” a ministry statement said.

In Ramallah, a prayer leader reciting the Muslim call to prayer at one mosque in the early evening added the words: “Pray at home, pray at home.”

According to Palestinian health officials, 38 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the West Bank, where the Palestinians have limited self rule under the Palestinian Authority. None have been reported in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist Hamas group.

In Israel, where 164 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, gatherings have been limited to 100 people. Some religious authorities in the Holy Land, including the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, have moved to implement crowd controls at places of worship.

Muslim majority countries have introduced a range of measures to try to halt the infection.

Egypt will suspend schools and universities for two weeks starting on March 15. Among Gulf Arab states, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are taking the most drastic decisions by cancelling all international flights.

Attendance at Friday prayers is generally mandatory for able-bodied men in Islam, but Riyadh said those under quarantine and those afraid of being infected or infecting others need not attend.

Pakistan has shut its schools and land borders and decided to limit international flights and discourage large gatherings.

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