Turkey suspended mass prayers in mosques until the risk of coronavirus outbreak passes, the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Ali Erbaş, said on March 16.
Speaking to reporters, Erbaş said the mosques will be kept open for “individual prayers.”
“After the [coronavirus] cases started to increase in our country, organizations in which people come together have been cancelled by the public authorities as a precaution. Taken this extraordinary situation into consideration, if congregational prayers continue in mosques, the risk of the transmission of the virus increases,” Erbaş said.
“Including the Friday prayers, congregational prayers will be suspended in mosques. During this period, instead of Friday prayers, [Muslims] can perform noon prayers [at home]. It has been decided that the Adhan [Muslim call for prayer] will continue to be sounded and mosques will stay open,” he said.
Erbaş’s comments came just hours before the Interior Ministry announced ordered the closure of all cafes, sports and entertainment venues.
Turkey has so far identified a total of 18 coronavirus cases, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on March 16.
Last week, Turkey became the last major economy to report an outbreak after taking what the World Health Organization (WHO) described as “vigilant” measures to delay it.
Since then, the government has ramped up measures to halt the spread of the virus, closing schools and universities, holding sports events without spectators and halting flights to many countries.