Muslims wearing protective face masks do the Friday prayers inside Al-Azhar mosque in the old Islamic area of Cairo while Egypt ramps up its efforts to slow down the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cairo, Egypt March 20, 2020 (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt will allow Friday prayers in major mosques starting 28 August under strict preventive measures, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced in a press conference on Wednesday.
Madbouly added that preventive measures will continue to be implemented during daily prayers, and that the weekly prayer’s sermon has been set at only 10 minutes.
The preventive measures include worshippers wearing facemasks, maintaining social distancing, and using personal prayer rugs. Mosques will be open only 10 minutes ahead of prayers, and will be closed immediately afterwards.
Weekly Friday prayers will only be allowed at major mosques with an accredited imam from the religious endowments ministry leading the prayers.
The weekly Islamic prayers will be prohibited at any mosque where violations against preventive measures take place.
Community centres as well as condolence and wedding halls attached to places of worship will remain shut nationwide. Funeral prayers will continue to be banned.
Mosques were allowed to reopen for daily prayers at the end of June for the first time since March.
Beaches and parks remain closed
Meanwhile, Madbouly said the current shutdown of public beaches will remain in place until further notice, and that the government will allow a reopening of gated parks that require entrance fees at a reduced occupancy of 50 percent.
Zoos, amusement parks, and other open spaces will now reopen under the same reduced occupancy rate seen by restaurants, he said, adding that only a limited number of visitors will be allowed entry throughout the day with the same preventive measures applied across the country.
Egypt has moved towards a gradual reopening of its economy since late June, lifting some of the anti-virus restrictions, including lifting a nighttime curfew, reopening restaurants and resuming regular international flights as part of a plan to coexist with the virus.
It has allowed restaurants and cafes to operate until 12am instead of the previous closing time of 10pm and at an increased occupancy limit since 26 July.
Cafes, restaurants, and other venues now operate until 12am, with commercial malls and shops to close at 10pm. They currently operate at an increased maximum occupancy rate of 50 percent instead of the previous limit of 25 percent.
Authorities have said lockdown measures would be reviewed periodically before they decide to gradually relax them further, warning that "strict measures" would be imposed if citizens failed to adhere to the rules.
Egypt's daily tally of new coronavirus infections and the daily death toll have both continued to decline in recent weeks despite the lifting of lockdown measures.
It currently has an infections tally of 96,753 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 5,184 deaths since the first case of coronavirus has been discovered in 14 February.