Saudi Arabia’s top Islamic authority has called on Muslims around the world to perform prayers at home during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Ramadan, marked by intense worshipping, begins on 24 April, but most Muslim countries have shut down mosques in an effort to contain the illness.
A feature of the fasting month is a special nightly prayer called “taraweeh,” usually performed in packed mosques.
The Saudi Senior Scholars’ Council said on Sunday that Muslims should perform communal prayers including the taraweeh at home if authorities in their respective countries recommend it.
“The Muslim should avoid gatherings because they are considered the main reason for spreading infection, according to related medical reports,” the council said, according to the state Saudi news agency SPA.
The council advised against group meals during Ramadan and underlined the importance of preserving life in Islam.
Observant Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn to dusk during the lunar month of Ramadam.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has suspended congregational prayers in mosques and halted religious journeys to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina as part of strict measures to control the outbreak.
Saudi authorities have installed thermal cameras at the entrances of the Holy Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet Mohammed Mosque in Medina to check the body temperatures of visitors, Saudi-owned television Al Arabiya reported.
“Activating these cameras in the two holy mosques represents a quality step in the level of precautionary measures,” Abdel-Rahman al-Sudeis, the head of a state agency in charge of the two sites, said, according to Al Arabiya.
This kind of cameras has a feature of storing the recorded temperatures of people and their image for one month for retrieval when needed, the broadcaster said.
Later Sunday, the Saudi Health Ministry announced five more deaths from Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, bringing the country’s overall death toll to 97.
The ministry also confirmed 1,088 new virus cases, SPA reported, citing a spokesman.
The latest cases raise to 9,362 the total number of infections in the oil-rich monarchy, the highest tally in an Arab country.
In Germany, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany had also called on Muslims in the country to observe their prayers at home instead of in mosques during the month-long fasting period which ends on 23 May.
Austin Ohaegbu with agency