Coronavirus: UAE places of worship await decision on reopening

Religious leaders in Dubai took part in a meeting with police on Thursday

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Kelly Clark: A gentleman cleans at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. Churches suspend mass gatherings and increase cleaning operations. Thursday, March 12th, 2020. Jebel Ali, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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A decision as to whether places of worship will be allowed to reopen is expected to be made next week.

Religious leaders in Dubai were in talks with police officials on Thursday.

Mosques, churches and temples have been closed to the public since March 16, as part of efforts to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

However, with malls, cinemas and restaurants all now open, religious leaders are expected to get the green light in the coming days.

We are expecting the decision will be made by Sunday or Monday and that capacity will be limited to 30 to 50 per cent

“We were in a Zoom meeting with Dubai Police this morning which went very well, and we are waiting now for confirmation from the government when we can reopen,” said Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of the Gurunanak Darbar Sikh Temple in Jebel Ali.

“We are expecting the decision will be made by Sunday or Monday and that capacity will be limited to 30 to 50 per cent when we do open again.”

Father Reinhold Sahner, parish priest at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Dubai, also attended the meeting and said officials were looking closely at how to manage numbers.

“We don’t know when we will reopen for sure but we will be ready and the police have been really helpful with information,” he said.

“One thing we will have to do is consider how we will manage attendance because we don’t want crowds arriving and then being turned away and having hundreds of people left standing outside.

“We are looking at introducing a ticketing system so people will have their seat in the church confirmed. They will know then if they should travel here or not.”

The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf) which manages mosques across the UAE, excluding Dubai, said it has not made a decision yet.

“The decision will be issued by the emergency and crisis management committee and will be announced during one of the media briefings that take place every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 9.30pm,” said an Awqaf representative.

The Dubai Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department also confirmed no decision had been made yet.


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