Anadolu Agency

Instead of attending weekly collective mosque prayers on Fridays, Muslims in the high risk group can pray at home, Turkey’s highest religious body said on March 13 amid heightened concerns that such events could speed up the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The supreme council of religious affairs announced that Muslim members of high-risk groups living in countries with a COVID-19 outbreak could perform their noon prayers at home instead of attending Friday prayers at a mosque, as is normally mandated.

In a written statement released by the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), the council cited the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement that the virus had become a global pandemic.

Underscoring that Friday prayers were a must for every obliged person, the statement said that various justifications could excuse a person from the congregation, including danger to life, property or health.

After originating in Wuhan, China last December, the virus has spread to at least 118 countries and territories.

The global death toll stands at nearly 5,000, with over 132,500 confirmed cases.