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Egypt to Ban Ramadan Gatherings over Outbreak, Tunisia Warns Virus Carriers

Egypt to Ban Ramadan Gatherings over Outbreak, Tunisia Warns Virus Carriers

Tuesday, 7 April, 2020 - 17:30
A man walks past the closed al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo which has been closed along with other places of worship to stop the spread of coronavirus in Egypt. (Reuters)

Egypt will ban any public religious gatherings during the holy Muslim fasting month Ramadan starting in around two weeks to counter the spread of the new coronavirus, a government statement said on Tuesday.

Muslims usually break the fast at sunset together with their families, go to the mosque to pray and spend maximum time with relatives.

But with health experts recommending social distancing measures during the global coronavirus crisis, Egypt will ban any gatherings and public iftars, or fast-breaking meals, as well as collective social activities, the ministry of Islamic endowments said in a statement.

Typically, mass iftars are held for poor people.

The ban will also apply to the seclusion of Itikaf when Muslims spend the last 10 days of the month in mosques to pray and meditate, the ministry said.

Egypt has reported more than 1,300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with more than 250 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Egypt is home to some 100 million people and also the seat of the al-Azhar university, Egypt’s highest religious authority.

Ramadan will start around April 23 depending on the sighting of the moon marking the start of the month.

Egypt already last month ordered mosques and churches to shut their doors to worshippers. Prayer calls are broadcast via loudspeakers.

Tunisia warns virus carriers

Tunisia's interior ministry warned Tuesday that people infected with coronavirus could be prosecuted for manslaughter if they contaminate others by disobeying the health ministry's instructions.

"If someone who is sick does not self-isolate as required in line with health ministry instructions, and they contaminate someone else, we will pursue them under the penal code," Interior Minister Hichem Mechichi told reporters.

"If that cross-contamination results in death, they can be prosecuted for manslaughter."

Testing has confirmed some 600 cases of coronavirus in Tunisia, among which there have been 22 fatalities.

Since April 5, three hotels across the country have been equipped to take care of up to 1,500 coronavirus patients outside hospitals, according to authorities.

Around 120 people are currently staying in those hotels.

But some infected people have been reluctant to remain in quarantine.

"We will be strict in applying the law... our responsibility is to protect the people," Mechichi said.

Tunisia imposed a 6:00 pm to 6:00 am curfew from March 18, and imposed daytime movement restrictions on citizens on March 22, in a bid to forestall the spread of the virus.

Hundreds have been arrested for breaking daytime rules and around 1,000 for breaching the nighttime curfew, according to authorities.

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