Oman opens mosques for Friday prayers as Covid-19 recedes

Many worshippers are concerned that social distancing is not properly observed

Most worshippers stayed at home as Oman held Friday prayers for the first time in 18 months, with turnout much lower than the permitted 50 per cent.

Quote
Most people follow social distancing rules but some did not really care. They got too close to each other and no one was really there to tell them not to
Tarik Abdelhakim, 27

The largest mosques in the capital Muscat with capacity for 1,000 people received fewer than 100 worshippers.

Many people were concerned about whether social distancing would be maintained.

“I prefer to wait for a week or two to see how it goes,” Salah Al Abri, 34, a resident of coastal fishing city Seeb, near Muscat, told The National.

“I know the government has already announced strict regulations but I am not sure if people will really adhere to them,”

Worshippers with health issues had similar concerns.

“I am already vaccinated but I have underlying problems. Being vaccinated does not prevent you from getting infected and with my heart condition, I cannot take chances to be in a crowd in an enclosed area,” Salim Al Amri, 72, who lives in Al Hail, near Muscat, said.

“So I decided to stay away for a few weeks and see how it develops.”

Worshippers who did attend, raised issues about social distancing.

“Most people follow social distancing rules but some did not really care,” Tarik Abdelhakim, 27, an Egyptian national, told The National.

“They got too close to each other and no one was really there to tell them not to. I was not really comfortable while I was in the mosque, especially when someone started sneezing behind me.”

Oman's Supreme Committee for Covid-19 said last week that Friday prayers will be held at 50 per cent capacity.

Worshippers must adhere to safety measures to avoid spreading the virus.

Mosques across the sultanate have been mostly closed since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, as part of Oman's measures to combat the virus.

Oman began opening mosques five times a day for prayers on November 16, for vaccinated citizens. But larger gatherings for Friday prayers had been suspended until today.

Health Minister Ahmed Al Saeedi said last week that “the Covid-19 situation was improving”.

On Thursday, Oman’s biggest hospital said it had no patients with coronavirus in its care for the first time in 18 months.

Oman has reported no coronavirus deaths for five consecutive days.

Updated: September 24th 2021, 12:38 PM
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