Duvar English

Social distancing was completely forgotten around Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia ahead of its opening as a mosque, prompting concerns on the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Thousands flocked to the site on July 24 to perform prayers without abiding by social distancing.

People wait after Friday prayers to visit Hagia Sophia.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that around 350,000 people attended the prayers.

As crowds grew, Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said authorities had stopped people entering the area due to said concerns.

On Twitter he called for patience and said the mosque would be open for prayer until early on July 25.

People pray as they visit Hagia Sophia.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca shared warnings on Twitter, urging people to follow precautions.

“We hope that the people won’t abandon precautions. The information we received so far shows that the biggest crowd during the pandemic will occur,” Koca tweeted on July 23.

wd during the pandemic will occur,” Koca tweeted on July 23.

On July 24, he repeated his warning.

“First comes precautions, then takbir,” Koca said, referring to the Arabic term for the phrase God is great.

He also shared statistics on COVID-19, saying that 46 percent of the cases were diagnosed in Istanbul.

“Out of every 1,000 people randomly tested, 2.9 people turned out positive in Istanbul. This is 13.8 percent higher than Turkey’s average,” the minister said.