Churches in Upper Egypt’s Qena have been shut down temporarily, with a ban imposed on masses after a surge in coronavirus infections, Anba
Cheroubim, the Bishop of Qena, announced on Sunday.
The closure came due to a “rise in infections in the past days in an unprecedented and alarming manner, despite a previous warning of suspending masses if preventive measures are not adhered to.”
Churches will be closed and masses will be brought to a halt starting Monday till 2 April, the statement said.
It remains unclear if the closure decision was due to a surge in cases in the governorate or among churchgoers and clergymen.
This is the first major closure of houses of Christian worship in a governorate since the one-month suspension of masses and other services in Cairo and Alexandria that had been ordered by the Coptic Orthodox Church in December due to a rise in infections among clergymen and churchgoers at the time.
Churches were first allowed to reopen with restrictions for the first time in August after a steady decline in coronavirus infections over the summer.
The limited reopening came after four months of closure due to the pandemic in March last year, which saw most religious assemblies and festivities interrupted in fear of an outbreak in infections in the overpopulous country.
Egypt’s total infections toll currently stands at 190,280 since the outbreak in February last year, including 11,256 fatalities.
Egypt has warned last month of a spike in cases by April, according to statements by Minister of Health Hala Zayed.
Zayed said in a World Health Organisation conference in February that the ministry expects an increase in infection rates in April, however, the curve is predicted to decline in May.
Mohamed Awad Tag El-Din, the presidential advisor for health affairs, said in TV statements on Saturday that Egypt is currently experiencing fluctuations in daily reported infections.
“We are in a fluctuating stage, with cases growing and declining by ten percent daily. The third wave [of infections] began in other states globally, but we hope that we don’t reach such a phase. A third wave of infections could happen in Egypt if we do not commit to preventive measures,” Tag El-Din told MBC Masr.