The UAE has announced the suspension of public prayers in all places of worship.
The National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority and General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments on Monday said prayers at mosques, churches and temples would be suspended from 9pm on Monday for four weeks, to contain the spread of coronavirus and protect public health.
Authorities called on Emiratis and residents to comply with the directive to protect themselves and others.
Several churches in the UAE had announced temporary closures and the suspension of Mass starting March 12 to curb the spread of Covid-19.
In notices to worshippers, St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi and St Michael’s Church in Sharjah said last week that all group services and activities were postponed until further notice.
A notice signed by Edwin Maria Arasu, director of His Highness Special Projects at the Sharjah Ruler’s office, was sent out to all 10 churches in the emirate urging them to suspend all group services.
In support of the UAE government’s efforts to contain the outbreak, the Rev Canon Andy Thompson, senior chaplain at St Andrew’s Church, said its decision to close completely was voluntary.
On March 3, Muslims in the UAE were told not to attend prayers in mosques if they were unwell or had a compromised immunity.
According to a fatwa issued by the country’s Fatwa Council then, anyone at risk of potentially contracting coronavirus — including senior citizens, anyone suffering from a respiratory disease and people who have a weakened immune system — should avoid going to mosques and pray at home instead.
“Anyone who suffers from or is suspected to have this disease is forbidden by the Sharia to be in public places, or to go to the mosque to attend congregational prayers, Friday, or Eid,” said the fatwa.
A number of public places have been closed across the Emirates during the past few days. These have ranged from tourist attractions to beaches and cinemas in Abu Dhabi.
Dubai has also closed theme parks, cinemas and gyms. Public parks in the city will also remain closed until further notice, Dubai Municipality said.
The UAE has recorded 98 cases of the virus, the first of which were confirmed in a family of four travelling from Wuhan on January 29.
A total of 26 patients have since made full recoveries after receiving treatment in the Emirates.