Cairo: Calls to prayers echoed across Egypt on Saturday, as mosques in the country reopened for the first time in more than three months.
Last March, the government shut down places of worship in Egypt as part of precautions to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
The government decided to reopen mosques for daily prayers, but said the Friday prayers, attended by a larger congregation of worshippers, will remain suspended.
Responding to the adhan call coming out of mosque loudspeakers, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians headed for group prayers.
“I missed the mosque for months,” said Mahmoud Shahat, as he emerged from a Cairo mosque. “It was as if I heard the 'hasten to prayer’ phrase for the first time,” he added with a broad smile, referring to part of the adhan call.
Egyptian religious authorities have urged worshippers to strictly abide by precautions to prevent the proliferation of COVID-19.
“I think every worshippers should be thankful for the reopening of mosques by bringing in his own prayer rug , observing distancing and doing the ablution at home,” said Abdul Fatah Okasha, waving a personal prayer rug. "As a good sign, I saw no one inside the mosque shaking hands which was a coomon greeting following prayers before the corona pandemic," he added.
As part of precautions against COVID-19, mosque bathrooms remain closed and funeral prayers are not allowed yet. Shrines housed inside mosques are shut, too.
Egypt so far has recorded a total of 62,755 infections, including 1,625 related fatalities amid a spike in daily cases.
The government has recently loosened some virus-related restrictions, including ending a nighttime curfew, to revitalise economy.