Coronavirus: Pakistan, Bangladesh take measures to stop Friday prayers
The government in Pakistan's Sindh province, home to the country's largest city, Karachi, had plans to enforce a "curfew-like" lockdown for three hours beginning 12 noon Friday to deter people from coming out of their homes for prayers.
In a bid to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, police in Pakistan is enforcing a strict lockdown to prevent people from going to mosques to offer Friday prayers. This comes after authorities in the country failed to prevent large congregations last week.
Health experts have warned of an epidemic in South Asia -- home to a fifth of the world's population -- that could easily overwhelm its weak public health systems.
But authorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh, another Muslim majority nation, and even India have struggled to persuade conservative religious groups to maintain social distancing in order to curb the spread of the virus.
The government in Pakistan's southern province of Sindh, home to the country's largest city, Karachi, planned to enforce a "curfew-like" lockdown for three hours beginning 12 noon Friday to deter people from coming out of their homes for prayers, officials said.
“In the greater interest of saving lives, a decision to ban the prayer congregations at mosques has been taken following a meeting of clerics from all schools of thought. Islamic Sharia allows it,” Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Sindh's Minister for Local Bodies and Information was cited as saying by Reuters.
Pakistan has reported 2,386 people infected with coronavirus, the highest in south Asia, fuelled by a jump in cases related to members of Tablighi Jamaat -- a Sunni Muslim group -- which had planned a congregation in the city of Lahore last month.
The meeting was postponed but by then hundreds of people had already arrived at the premises and they stayed on.
In Bangladesh, some people were expected to go to mosques even though the government appealed to them to stay at home to reduce the risk of infections.
Bangladesh's top religious body, the Islamic Foundation, said elderly people and those with fever or cough, symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, should offer prayers at home. Bangladesh, home to 160 million people is one of the world's most densely populated countries. So far it has had 56 cases, including six deaths.
Meanwhile, the World Bank on Thursday approved an initial $1.9 billion in emergency funds for coronavirus response operations in 25 developing countries, with more than half the aid earmarked to help fight the fast-spreading disease in India. "The poorest and most vulnerable countries will likely be hit the hardest," World Bank Group President David Malpas said in a statement.
Following is data on the spread of the coronavirus in South Asia, according to government figures:
-- Pakistan has registered 2,386 cases, including 34 deaths.
-- India has registered 2,069 cases, including 56 deaths.
-- Sri Lanka has registered 151 cases, including three deaths.
-- Afghanistan has registered 273 cases, including six deaths.
-- Bangladesh has registered 56 cases, including six deaths.
-- Maldives has registered 31 cases and no deaths.
-- Nepal has registered six cases and no deaths.
-- Bhutan has registered five cases and no deaths