Cairo's well-known El-Nour mosque has been ordered to close for two weeks as a result of congregants' non-compliance with coronavirus precautions, that have been mandatory since mosques reopened in July.
Egyptian Endowment Minister Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa announced the decision shortly after performing the Dhuhr (noon) prayer at the mosque.
A number of worshipers were seen praying inside the mosque without wearing facemasks and bringing their own personal mat, according to a statement released on Tuesday by the endowment ministry, which is responsible for administering mosques nationwide.
No prayers will be allowed inside or outside the mosque for two weeks, with the mosque's imams and staff fined ten days from their monthly payment, the statement noted.
The ministry, the statement added, decided to refer the district inspector and the head of the directorate to which the mosque is affiliated, to an internal investigation for "failure to perform their duties".
The decision is the first since Egypt entered the second wave of coronavirus, with rising infections and death tolls reported since Thursday.
A host of similar decisions were taken during the first wave of the pandemic, including the closure of Cairo's iconic Al-Hussein mosque in July as some prayer-goers at the mosque had opposed the precautions related to physical distancing and had remained in the mosque after prayers were over.
Egypt allowed worshippers to perform daily prayers at mosques starting July after a four-month closure, provided that they adhere to the virus-related precautions, foremost of which is wearing a mask when praying, bringing personal prayer mats, and keeping at least 1.5 meters apart for the daily prayer services.
Others limits imposed include performing the ablution - a cleansing ritual that worshippers complete before prayer - outside the mosque in addition to allowing mosques to remain open for only 30 minutes for prayer services.
A month later, Friday prayers were allowed to resume only at major mosques.
In a bid to curb the current spike of COVID-19 infections nationwide, the Egyptian government banned gatherings like funerals and weddings behind closed doors, which applies to mosques' affiliated halls. Other restrictions were imposed like banning New Year’s Eve celebrations and imposing an immediate EGP 50 fine for not wearing masks in public starting next Sunday.
Also, Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church announced the holding of the Christmas mass with a limited number of participants over coronavirus fears.
In Tuesday's statement, the endowment ministry called for closing any mosque in which worshippers do not comply with the precautions in an effort to handle the second wave.