Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 30 October 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: heavy disinfection at UAE mosques before July 1 reopening

Catholic churches delay reopening as they seek clarity on receiving the holy communion

Dubai Municipality has undertaken an extensive disinfection programme in mosques before their reopening on Wednesday.

A video shared by the municipality shows workers carrying out sanitisation operations.

Walls, doors, carpets, entrances, stairs, shelves and books have been disinfected, said Mohammed Ali Al Falasi, executive director of the Mosques Affairs Sector in Dubai.

All imams, muezzins and mosque workers have taken the Covid-19 test. Places of worship will reopen across the UAE amid strict precautionary measures, authorities announced on Monday.

Mosques, temples and churches were closed on March 16 to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

On Monday, Dr Saif Al Dhaheri, spokesman for the National Authority for Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management (NCEMA), said most mosques would reopen for daily prayers but Friday prayers were not permitted yet.

He said worshippers should perform ablution at home before arriving for prayer at the mosque, where the capacity will be capped at 30 per cent.

Other safety measures include worshippers keeping a distance of at least three metres from one another, wearing face masks and a ban on intimate greetings.

Worshippers must bring their own copy of the Quran and have the Al Hosn app downloaded on their mobile phones.

“The reopening of the mosques to worshipers in Dubai [comes with] a plan consisting of eight instructions for worshipers to adhere to and nine general [ones] to allow prayers in mosques,” Al Falasi said.

Mosques will remain open only from the time of azan until the end of obligatory prayer in congregation.

Hindu temples and a Sikh gurdwara in Dubai are also ready to open without ritual ceremonies and offerings to the gods.

Trustees await details from the Community Development Authority about the restricted timing during which worshipers could enter to pray.

Gatherings inside the shrine, rituals or pujas, flowers and food offerings to the gods will not be permitted and entry is likely for a few hours in the morning and evening.

“There will no sit-down prayers, no reading of holy books inside,” said Raju Shroff, a trustee of the Hindu temples in Bur Dubai.

“People can come in to pray and must leave. They cannot mingle inside, there will no prasad (offering), aarti (religious rituals) will not be open to the public. We are ready and officials have come in and checked the precautions in place as people walk around the temple.”

The sanitisation system has already been installed at the Gurunanak Darbar in Jebel Ali, Dubai to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Pawan Singh / The National
The sanitisation system has already been installed at the Gurunanak Darbar in Jebel Ali, Dubai to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Pawan Singh / The National

The shrines have been inspected by officials from the CDA, police and NCEMA officials over the past week.

Regular deep cleaning, thermal scanners at the entrance and individual temperature checks are among safety measures.

The two Bur Dubai temples usually attract between 3,000 to 5,000 people daily and about 15,000 over the weekend.

Separators have been placed inside the temple to manage the flow of people.

Expatriates have welcomed the move. “There is a lot of pain in people’s mind and hearts and emotional distress due to the coronavirus,” Mr Shroff said.

“You can worship at home but you come here seeking solace. People want to reach out to god and feel connected. We can leave out the pujas and rituals but it’s important for them to find that connection again.”

Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of the gurdwara in Jebel Ali also awaited reopening timings.

Cubicles that will spray devotees with sanitiser have been installed, masks and gloves will be handed out and floor markers indicate the distance to be kept between worshipers.

A view of the Gurunanak Darbar Sikh Gurudwara in Jebel Ali, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
A view of the Gurunanak Darbar Sikh Gurudwara in Jebel Ali, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The traditional langar or daily service where people are served meals has been suspended. Food, drinks are not permitted and toilets are shut to visitors.

The gurdwara welcome 2,000 people daily and 15,000 on Fridays.

“People have been starved of the religious part of their lives and so we are expecting a lot of people,” Mr Kandhari said.

“They want to go back to spiritual places to speak to god. But we will be very cautious and careful when we open. We have already sent out instructions via email so people are aware of the new measures.”

Meanwhile, certain churches in the country are expected to delay their reopening.

Fr Reinhold Sahner, parish priest at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Jebel Ali, said wearing a face mask makes it impossible to administer holy communion during the mass service. “We have a certain list of requests that we need clarification on before we can reopen,” he said.

“People cannot receive holy communion and all the new rules about reopening are for the mosques and evangelical churches, where the service is totally different.”

Fr Sahner said he had been in close contact with St Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai where the situation was the same.

“There are still a lot of questions that we need to be able to answer,” he said. Until then we will remain closed.”

St Mary’s Catholic Church will also not reopen until it receives clarification from the CDA on how it can serve holy communion.

“Holy communion is distributed in either the hand or the mouth, so we are awaiting information about how we can do that if everyone has to wear gloves and masks at all times,” said James Joseph, head of the Liturgical Council at the church.

“We have submitted a proposal to the CDA about how we will reopen and are awaiting a response.”

He said the church could hold up to 400 people for each service after complying with social-distancing measures.

Updated: June 30, 2020 11:15 PM

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