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Saudi Arabia suspends congregational Ramadan prayers in Mecca, Medina

International umrah visits have been halted since the 2nd of March [Anadolu Agency]

Date of publication: 21 April, 2020

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Islam’s two holiest sites will not host public nightly prayers this Ramadan, Saudi Arabia said on Monday, cancelling this year’s itikaf and extending the suspension of prayers previously announced.
Saudi Arabia has extended the suspension of prayers in the Two Holy Mosques for the month of Ramadan, to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques Abdul Rahman As-Sudais made the announcement on Monday in a tweet. 

The nightly prayers performed during the holy month of Ramadan, Tarawih, held at the Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque will not be open to the public, Sudais said.

The prayers will still be held at the two holy sites without public attendance, according to Sudais. A schedule has not yet been released.

The statement on Twitter also said that itikaf – the Islamic practice of spiritual seclusion in a mosque, often in the last days of Ramadan – has been cancelled at the sites.

The Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Umrah, will remain suspended indefinitely, Sudais added.

Despite the suspensions, Sudais said additional coronavirus prevention measures were in place, including the activation of thermal cameras installed at the two mosques in Mecca and Medina.

Thermal-imaging cameras identify people with unusually high fevers, one of the signs of a potential covid-19 infection.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed 10,484 cases of coronavirus infection, with over 100 resulting deaths, while the virus has infected at least 2.4 million globally.

Read also: Middle East braces for grim Ramadan as coronavirus threat continues

Last month, the kingdom suspended prayers in the courtyards of the Mecca and Medina mosques to stem the spread of covid-19. 

Ramadan begins later this week and will end the following month with Eid al-Fitr festivities.

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