Health watchdog calls for suspension of Friday prayers, church masses as Covid-19 cases rise

A public health group has called for the suspension of large-scale prayer gatherings including the weekly Muslim congregation.

PETALING JAYA: A public health think tank has urged mosques, churches and temples to suspend weekly and regular prayer gatherings in the wake of new Covid-19 cases detected at houses of worship.

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said Friday prayers, church masses and temple ceremonies should be temporarily stopped.

This comes after authorities confirmed that a man who had attended a massive “tabligh” gathering at a mosque was among the latest batch of Covid-19 patients, with efforts underway to track thousands of others who were at the same event.

The health ministry said yesterday that the man, the 131st Covid-19 patient in Malaysia, was among the 10,000 who had attended the tabligh convention from Feb 27 to March 1, held at a Sri Petaling mosque used as the base of the Muslim missionary movement.

Galen said the matter brings to light a worrying lack of awareness over the Covid-19 outbreak, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) last night declared as a pandemic amid a sharp rise in casualties worldwide.

“This is worrying,” Galen CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib told FMT.

Health authorities had warned of a second wave of the outbreak, and recommended restrictions on public programmes to minimise its spread.

But Azrul said the latest trend calls for more drastic measures, adding that Catholic religious bodies in Italy have already cancelled masses, following an alarming rise in the number of Covid-19 cases there.