Muscat: Worshippers were delighted to return to mosques for Friday prayers this weekend, after being unable to do so for more than 18 months, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mosques were required to close for Friday prayers on March 15, 2020, as part of measures to stop the spread of the virus. On reopening for Friday prayers on September 24, 2021, they were required to operate at only 50 per cent capacity, with a number of preventive measures in effect.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Ibrahim Al Ajmi, an Omani national. “This is thanks to everyone following COVID precautions and an uptake in vaccination numbers. I ask everyone to continue on this path for the good of society.”
Pakistani national Iqbal Karim said in this context, “We only understand the value of something when it is gone, and Friday prayers are a way of life for so many of us that it took some time to adjust to worshipping at home. I am very grateful to be able to return to mosques to offer prayers now.”
Among the measures taken by mosques, in accordance with the regulations of the Supreme Committee, were the installations of signs that make people aware of the ways in which worshippers inside mosques can spread the virus. The precautions inside mosques are to be overseen by the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, which has stated that these places of worship can only operate at 50 per cent capacity.
Worshippers are required to stay at home should they feel ill, and those who plan on coming to a mosque must perform their ablutions at home. Further, masks must be worn throughout the time they are within the mosque.
People also need to bring their prayer mats from home, commit to regular sterilisation of hands, and avoid shaking hands with others. They must adhere to physical distancing, should not share protective equipment, and must avoid touching the surfaces within the mosque as much as possible.
The Friday prayer rituals were performed by adhering to the time period specified, reported Oman News Agency. The mosque opens an hour and a half before the Friday prayer, and closes 30 minutes after the prayer session. The Friday sermon should not exceed 10 minutes, and it must be limited to 15 minutes.
Worshippers who enter the mosque have to show proof of being administered at least one vaccine dose, either in the form of the Tarassud app, or a printed vaccine certificate. Should there be a suspected case of COVID-19 in a mosque, the area must immediately be closed, and the call centre of the Ministry of Health should be alerted.
A disinfection, sterilisation, and ventilation procedure must then be followed, with special attention provided to informing worshippers about the need to adhere to COVID precautions, once the mosque reopens. While the mosque is shut under the above circumstances, no one is allowed to enter. The reasons for closure must also be assessed by the concerned specialist teams.