Friday prayers called off in Iran over coronavirus fears

Tehran, Feb 28 (IANS) Coronavirus-hit Iran cancelled the main congregational Friday prayers in Tehran and 22 major cities for the first time in decades in a bid to check the disease’s spread even as the Health Ministry warned of more cases, reports said.Restrictions were placed on visitors to major Muslim shrines in Qom, the epicentre of the country’s Covid-19 outbreak, and Mashhad, the BBC said.Over 900 cities and towns across Iran hold Friday prayer services, featuring sermons by imams designated by the Supreme Leader. Thousands of people would have been expected to attend those in the 23 provincial capitals that were cancelled on the Health Ministry’s advice.Announcing the number of confirmed cases at 388 and related deaths at 34, the Health Ministry warned that the number of cases would continue to rise in the coming days.The toll is by far the highest outside China, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the outbreak may be worse than realised. Cases have spread from Iran to neighbouring countries, such as 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.–IANSvd

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