Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church announced that it will ban visits to cemeteries this Christmas in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus within the country.
In an official statement on Saturday, the Church announced the ban on the visits during Orthodox Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7, to avoid gatherings and crowds.
The cemeteries will only be open to burials, the Church said.
Coptic Orthodox Egyptians, who make up around 90 percent of all Christians in the country, celebrate Christmas on 7 January. A minority of non-Orthodox Christians observed the holiday on 25 December.
The decision comes days after the Church announced stricter restrictions on religious gatherings until the end of January in Cairo and Alexandria as the country entered the second wave of infections late in December.
Those include lowering the number of participants in the Christmas and Epiphany masses at each church to a maximum of 20 people only, in addition to the churchs' priests.
Only one mass will be held weekly in each church and attendance will be limited to priests and 15 deacons at most.
Sunday schools, meetings, other activities and services will also be suspended.
Egypt entered the second wave of the pandemic in the last week of December, recording double the number of infections daily.
Egypt has so far registered 139,471 cases of COVID-19 since mid-February, including 112,826 recoveries and 7,687 fatalities.
Egypt has warned of a spike in COVID-19 cases since November, as the general public have been showing a relaxed enforcement of the preventive measures ever since a drop in confirmed cases had been recorded in the past months.
Officials said they will exercise “zero tolerance” against people who fail to adhere to preventive measures against the pandemic.
Egypt began the move towards a gradual reopening of its economy in June, easing pandemic-related restrictions, including lifting the night-time curfew, reopening restaurants and places of worship, as well as resuming regular international flights as part of its plans to coexist with the virus.