Ahead of Ramadan, Pakistan Eases COVID Rules After Clerics Complain April 20, 2020

Ahead of Ramadan, Pakistan Eases COVID Rules After Clerics Complain

Most Islamic countries have implemented corona-related shelter-in-place measures and are committed to making that work through the holy month of Ramadan, which starts this Thursday.

And then there’s Pakistan, a de facto theocracy where, we see once again, the fundies are in control.

Pakistan has lifted bans on congregational prayers at mosques ahead of Ramadan, prompting alarm from some health experts who are worried about the spread of Covid-19. The government bowed to calls from influential clerics and religious parties to relax the country’s pandemic precautions.

Today, no more than three to five people can enter a mosque at a time. When Ramadan starts, that restriction will go out the window.

In fairness, the clerics did agree to some safety protocols. Worshipers will be required to wear masks. While inside, they must maintain a six-foot distance to others, rather than pray shoulder to shoulder (as is the Muslim practice). In addition, imams and their staffs have promised to frequently clean and disinfect the mosques.

Nevertheless,

The decision [to slacken the rules] was described as a dangerous precedent at odds with many other Muslim nations where mosques were closed… Dr. Mishal Khan, an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said she was “very concerned” about the decision.

I’m well aware that religious leaders are powerful and the government would have had little choice,” Dr. Khan said. “But giving the impression to the public that congregations can be safe is dangerous.”

Before the easing of restrictions was announced on Saturday,

clashes between mosque attendees and police [over the restrictions] had been reported in Karachi, the country’s largest city,

… Reuters said.

Pakistan, with a population of 200 million, currently has a low number of confirmed cases and COVID deaths (8,348 and 168, respectively, as I write this). But even Imran Khan, the prime minister, acknowledges that the worst is yet to come. He said on Saturday that he expects a peak of cases in mid-May. At that time, whatever the COVID-19 stats are, the loosening of public-health requirements for mosques will almost certainly have hurt, not helped.

(Image via Shutterstock)


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