Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Abu Dhabi: Mosques across the UAE will reopen for Friday prayers, starting from December 4, while strictly adhering to COVID-19 precautionary measures, it was announced on Tuesday.

Making the announcement during a media briefing held by the UAE Government to outline the latest developments with regard to countering the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Saif Al Dhaheri, Spokesperson of the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA), said that mosques will reopen for worshipers 30 minutes before the Friday prayer and will close 30 minutes later.

“Friday’s sermon together with the prayer should not exceed 10 minutes; mosque workers and volunteers will organize the entry and exit of worshipers,” Al Dhaheri said, adding that all worshipers must wear face masks and bring their own prayer rugs, which must not be left inside the mosques or shared with other.

“Worshipers should also avoid touching surfaces and door handles. They have to adhere to and maintain clear spacing signs to avoid any possible crowding”, he further said.

“Worshipers who wish to read the Holy Quran are advised to do so through their personal Quran or smart phones. They are also advised to download COVID-19-related apps and activate them when attending prayers,” Al Dhaheri clarified.

“Ablution must be performed at home and senior citizens, children and those with chronic diseases or respiratory diseases and those suffering from weak immunity should perform prayers at home, based on a fatwa from the Fatwa Council of the UAE,” he said.

He stated that ablution places, toilets and women's prayer halls will remain closed, adding “We announce a change in the times of daily prayers by 15 minutes before the call for prayers, and 10 min. after prayers, except for Maghrib prayers, which will be called 5 min. before the call for prayers,”.

He made it clear that the ban on distributing food and water will remain in place, adding that mosques and churches in industrial areas will also continue to be closed.

More COVID-19 tests conducted

Also speaking during the briefing was Dr Omar Al Hammadi, Official Spokesperson of the UAE Government. Al Hammadi revealed that a total of 791,519 COVID-19 tests were conducted nationwide from November 18-24, with the number of confirmed cases increased by 2 per cent reaching 8,556.

“This week's mortality rate is 0.3 per cent, the lowest since the start of the pandemic and the lowest globally compared to the European Union, Middle East and North Africa region and countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),” Al Hammadi said.

“The UAE has followed strategies and policies and spearheaded pivotal initiatives preserving human life and health. This included expanding tests to reach about 16 million people, allocating a large number of medical centres, field hospitals and vehicle testing centres, and supporting the strategic stock of medicines,”.

“Our health sector has adopted modern techniques for detection, investigation and treatment, including using laser tests and establishing the largest laboratory in the world outside of China. This laboratory is supporting stem cell treatment and participating in clinical trials of a promising vaccine that has reached its last stages and proven its effectiveness.

There have been many leading and distinguished humanitarian and community efforts by our frontline heroes that deserve thanks and appreciation, which is one of the most important reasons for the success of the UAE and make it a model for other countries,” he underscored.

Speaking on the reopening of mosques, Al Hammadi said: “Mosques will reopen for Friday prayers starting from 4 December. This is an exceptional step achieved thorough studies conducted by the institutions of the UAE to resume religious activity in places of worship,”.

He made it clear that the Fatwa Council of the UAE issued a fatwa that includes an obligation for all groups of society to fully adhere to health and safety instructions issued by the authorities to prevent the transmission and spread of Covid19. It’s not permissible to violate this in any way.

“While the world is facing an increase in the number of cases, the UAE has demonstrated its ability to appropriately plan for a gradual recovery and emergence from the crisis and return to normal life while adhering to the relevant national procedures and protocols,” he emphasized.

“The worship and religious affairs sector has taken a number of precautionary measures with the aim of reducing the rate of cases, with an obligation to provide periodic checks for its workers,” he further said.

“We also appreciate the extent of the commitment shown by worshipers during the past period, which contributed to reaching this stage of a gradual return to normal life. These measures and decisions will be translated into several languages so that the message reaches all segments of society. Everyone’s cooperation will help us limit the spread of the virus, by conveying this message to others and clarifying the preventive measures when going to mosques and places of worship,” Al Hammadi noted.

“The reopening of mosques requires commitment from everyone, and we stress the continuation of periodic sterilization in addition to the presence of volunteers to provide support and guidance for those who do not adhere to preventive measures. Also, self-responsibility will contribute to limiting the spread of Covid19 and ensure your health and safety.

Procedures for mosques to be eligible to receive worshipers include reducing capacity by 30 per cent, allowing prayers in the outer courtyards and broadcasting the prayer over loudspeaker, the safe distance of two meters maintained between worshippers and entry and exit movements regulated,” Al Hammadi underlined.