Iran has cancelled Friday prayers in Tehran and 22 other provincial capitals for the first time in decades to limit the spread of the new coronavirus disease.
Senior Shia clerics have rejected calls for the shrines to be closed, with Ayatollah Mohammed Saeedi, the custodian of the Hazrat Masumeh shrine, saying that it should be kept open as a “house for cure”.
Meanwhile, Muslims are taking precautions in other parts of the Middle East, reports the BBC.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs said Friday sermons should not exceed 10 minutes and Bahraini mosques have also shortened Friday prayers, AFP news agency reports.
Saudi Arabia has temporarily halted religious visits to Mecca and Medina.
And two South African nationals working aboard a cruise ship quarantined at sea have contracted coronavirus, according to the country’s health ministry.
It quoted Japanese officials as saying the two patients were not outwardly displaying symptoms of the virus but were being treated in Japan.
The vessel had at least 3,700 people on board, South Africa’s authorities said in a statement.
When a passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong, tested positive for the virus at the end of January, the ship was quarantined for a four-week period, the statement added.
Ten other South African crew members are still on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and won’t be allowed to disembark until they pass a two-week quarantine period and test negative for the virus.
Passengers are being prioritised for disembarking before crew, the South African health ministry said quoting the cruise company.
In other developments:
*The World Health Organisation says most if not all countries should expect outbreaks of the coronavirus
*Stock markets across the globe are suffering their worst week since 2008
*Two hotels in Abu Dhabi are under lockdown as medical staff screen guests. Cyclists and crew who are part of the UAE Tour had been staying there and two Italian staff members have tested positive
*The Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido has declared a state of emergency
*Switzerland has banned big public events and the Geneva Car Show has been cancelled
*More than 50 countries have now confirmed cases, with Nigeria the first in sub-Saharan Africa to report an infection