RAWALPINDI/ ISLAMABAD: For the first time in forever, many mosques in the federal capital were not packed to capacity and Friday congregations were not held in most mosques following precautions over the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Amongst the public, however, there was a mixed reaction to the government’s instructions.
The management of many mosques strictly followed the ban on gathering for prayers, while others rejected it. At some mosques, hand sanitizers were offered while worshippers were screened with the help of thermo-guns.
In the federal capital, the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Administration on Friday notified that only three to five people, including the mosque staff, could only offer prayers in mosques while large congregations must be avoided because of the prevailing situation due to the coronavirus.
“On the instructions of the government and health experts, and in light of the Ulema’s guidance, only three to five people including khateeb, imam, moazen, mosque staff are allowed to offer Friday and five-time prayers in the mosques,” read a notification from the ICT Auqaf Department.
The Faisal Mosque, the largest mosque in the federal capital, was bereft of people at noon when it is usually bustling with people.
Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat, in a statement, said the decision to stop congregations was taken to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the federal capital where some 27 people have tested positive for the virus so far.
Conceding that most of the confirmed Covid-19 patients were those who came to Islamabad from other areas, he stressed that there is a need to practice social distancing to prevent an outbreak in the city.
He urged the people to stay in their homes to ensure the safety of their families.
“People should abstain from roaming in the city due to imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in the capital,” he added.
Shafqaat continued that while mosques were open, only by its staff is allowed to offer prayers in its vicinity. The citizens should offer prayers from their homes, he added.
In Rawalpindi, CPO Ahsan Younus along with SP Rawal Division Rai Mazhar and their team went to mosques, trying to convince the administrations of mosques and the worshipers to follow the government’s instructions.
However, in many mosques, the administrations and the worshipers alike were found unaware of the precautionary measures, particularly about maintaining a distance between worshipers.
As per rules of prayers, the worshipers should stand shoulder to shoulder however medical advice is to maintain a distance of at least three feet between two people.
The main reason, people in the mosques said, was that they were not informed about the distancing directives in advance.
The Rawalpindi police along with CPO Younus convinced the organisers and worshipers outside the mosques to implement the government directives.
Subsequently, in some mosques, prayers were offered albeit with worshipers standing at a distance and without any carpets or floor mats.
Murree mosques disinfected
As part of precautionary measures to deal with Covid-19, disinfectants were sprayed in different mosques of Murree.
A Rescue 1122 spokesperson said that the spray was carried out under the supervision of Emergency Officer In-charge Kamran Rasheed in which the teams of Rescue 1122, officials of the Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) and the relevant departments participated.
Rasheed urged the public to follow the instructions issued by the government in light of guidance given by health experts that people should remain confined to their homes.
He said that they will disinfect all areas of Murree to break the chain of the outbreak. However, he said that without support from the general public “we can never achieve the desired result,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2020.