Iran cancels Friday prayers to limit spread of outbreak

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    Iran cancelled the main Friday prayers in Tehran and 22 other cities for the first time in decades to limit the spread of the new coronavirus disease.

    It also placed some restrictions on access to major Shia Muslim shrines in Qom, the epicentre of the country’s Covid-19 outbreak, and Mashhad.

    Schools will also close for three days from Saturday, with the health minister warning of a “very difficult week”.

    Officials have reported 388 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 34 related deaths.

    The death toll is by far the highest outside China, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the outbreak may be worse than realised.

    Iran has also been the source of dozens of cases in neighbouring countries, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman and Pakistan.

    There have been 82,000 reported cases of Covid-19 worldwide and 2,800 deaths since the disease emerged late last year. All but 3,664 cases and 57 of the deaths have been reported in China.

    More than 900 cities and towns across Iran hold weekly Friday prayer services, during which imams designated by the supreme leader deliver sermons.

    Thousands of people would have been expected to attend those in the 23 provincial capitals that were cancelled on the advice of the health ministry.

    Source: BBC News

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