(April 26, 2020 / JNS) As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began on Friday, Islam’s holiest sites, in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia, were almost empty of worshipers as the coronavirus crisis forced authorities to impose a curfew, according to state news agency SPA.
Saudi Arabia eased curfews on Sunday across the country, but maintained a 24-hour curfew in the city of Mecca and in specific neighborhoods, according to Reuters.
Besides those areas, curfews will be eased between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. starting on Sunday and lasting until May 13. Authorities also eased restrictions on some economic activity, including wholesale and retail shops, and shopping malls starting on Wednesday.
Mecca’s Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina—the religion’s two holiest locations—will be closed to the public during the fasting period, according to Reuters.
“It pains me to welcome the glorious month of Ramadan under circumstances that forbid us from prayers in mosques,” King Salman said in comments marking the start of the Islamic holiday, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
Other sites in the country remain closed and gatherings of five or more people are banned.
Saudi Arabia has recorded 16,299 cases of coronavirus and 136 deaths, according to the report.
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