Mosques close in Britain and France over coronavirus fears

Muslim health professionals in France warn against “scepticism” about virus outbreak
Tuesday 17/03/2020
Pedestrians walk in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in central London on March 17. (AFP)
Pedestrians walk in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in central London on March 17. Britain on Tuesday ramped up its response to the escalating coronavirus outbreak. (AFP)

LONDON-- Mosques in some European countries moved to completely shut down to help slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The French Council for the Muslim Faith and the Grand Mosque of Paris called for the closure of all mosques in France, asking Muslims to pray at home. Reports said mosques in Paris that can accommodate more than 1,000 worshippers would be advised not to open for Friday prayers and could remain closed thereafter

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) recommended Muslim communities across the United Kingdom suspend “congregational activities” until further notice.

A statement by Muslim health professionals in France said it was “imperative to cancel all religious services and all ceremonies,” given the widespread nature of the outbreak. “Places of worship are places where social distancing cannot be implemented effectively,” the statement warned.

The statement explicitly called on Muslims to practise social distancing, adding: “We reiterate this call all the more since we have noted, among certain believers, a certain scepticism [towards the coronavirus outbreak].”

The MCB backed calls to close mosques to combat the spread of the virus.

“With the increasing rate of transmission and the number of deaths, medical and scholarly advice all points towards the limitation of social contact as the key towards reducing the spread,” MCB Secretary-General Harun Khan said in a release.

“We all have a public duty to protect one another from harm and it is evident the most effective way to do this now is to avoid social contact as much as possible. This includes all walks of life, whether social, work or the mosque.”

More than 190,000 people in 163 countries were confirmed to have been infected with coronavirus, resulting in 7,525 deaths.