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Punjab Will Not Close Mosques: Buzdar

by Newsweek Pakistan
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Provincial chief minister urges religious scholars to help government raise awareness about coronavirus threat among masses

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Monday promised a delegation of religious scholars that the provincial government had no plans to close mosques in a bid to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

According to local media, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader said a ban had been imposed on large public gatherings in the province under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. A large public awareness campaign is also in progress to raise awareness among the common man, he added.

Buzdar stressed that people should not panic, and urged the visiting religious scholars to sensitize congregants about the coronavirus threat. He said the government appreciated the religious scholars’ recommendations in this regard, including a bid to keep Friday prayers short and announce restrictions on children and elderly visiting mosques.

During the meeting, the religious scholars were given a briefing on the precautionary measures taken by the government to check the spread of coronavirus. They announced full support to the government in its efforts to check the spread of the deadly disease.

Buzdar said a cabinet committee had been constituted to monitor the steps being taken for controlling the virus, adding Rs. 240 million had been released to the health department for the procurement of necessary medical equipment.

He said the government had allocated Rs. 1 billion for the health department to cope with a potential coronavirus outbreak in the province. He said 41 high-dependency units with a capacity of 541 beds had been established at District Headquarters hospitals in the province for coronavirus patients.

The chief minister said special hospitals had been established in Muzaffargarh, Lahore and Rawalpindi for coronavirus patients, adding that quarantine facilities were available in Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan and Bahawalpur to monitor health conditions of pilgrims returning from Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Buzdar said 760 pilgrims who had been in Iran had reached Dera Ghazi Khan after being released from quarantine in Taftan. All of these people are being screened, he added.

The Punjab government’s decision to keep mosques open runs counter to prevailing wisdom in the rest of the world. In Kuwait, authorities have asked Muslims to pray at home. Iran, hardest hit by the virus in the region, has cancelled Friday prayers in major cities, while Egypt has ordered mosques to limit all prayers to no more than 15 minutes. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia banned Umrah for residents and citizens, while the U.A.E. health ministry has banned prayers at all houses of worship for four weeks.

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