UPDATES WITH REMARKS BY HEAD OF RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS DIRECTORATE
By Kemal Karadag
ANKARA (AA) – Instead of attending weekly collective prayers at mosques, Muslims can pray at home, Turkey's highest religious body said on Friday amid heightened concerns that such events could speed up the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The supreme council of religious affairs announced that Muslim members of high-risk groups living in countries with a COVID-19 outbreak could perform their noon prayers at home instead of attending Friday prayers at a mosque, as is normally mandated.
In a written statement released by the Directorate of Religious Affairs, the council cited the World Health Organization (WHO) which announced that the virus became a pandemic.
Underscoring that Friday prayers were a must for every obliged person, the statement said that various justifications could excuse a person from the congregation, including danger to life, property or health.
Meanwhile, head of Religious Affairs Directorate Ali Erbas said the courses teaching Muslim holy book Quran will be closed for two weeks in Turkey.
After originating in Wuhan, China last December, the virus has spread to at least 123 countries and territories.
The global death toll has surpassed 5,000, with over 132,500 confirmed cases, according to the WHO.
* Writing by Merve Aydogan and Fahri Aksut