Virus-Hit Iran Reopens Mosques For Holy Ramadan Nights

This picture taken on April 25, 2020, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan shows a view from outside the closed Imamzadeh Saleh in the Iranian capital Tehran’s Shemiran district, as all mosques and places of worship are closed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO: ATTA KENARE / AFP)


In spite of their fears over the coronavirus, hundreds of pious Iranians took advantage of the temporary opening of mosques on Wednesday to pray at one of the holiest times of the year.

The mask-clad faithful for the most part adhered to social distancing guidelines as they sat in designated areas of Reihanat al-Hussein mosque, in west Tehran.

Clutching their own prayer mats and Korans, they showed up with their families, including a couple with a baby, and appeared to be in high spirits.

Worshippers spilled out into grounds outside the mosque were disinfected by a sanitary worker in a hazmat suit who sprayed them as he walked among them.

But some of the gaps between those seated at the back appeared to be too close for comfort, and the Basij militia were on hand to ensure they kept apart.

“Of course, everybody is worried about the disease, even my own family,” said one of the worshippers who gave his name only as Mahmoudi.

“When I decided to come they were concerned about me and I promised them to respect the directives,” he said.

“So I came and saw that everyone is respecting the (social) distancing, otherwise, I wouldn’t have stayed and I’d have gone back home.”

Iran reopened the mosques for two hours from midnight for Laylat al-Qadr, a high point during the fasting month of Ramadan that marks when the Koran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed.

The Islamic republic shut its mosques and shrines in March as part of its efforts to contain the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19.

The first cases emerged in the Shiite holy city of Qom on February 19 and spread rapidly to all 31 of the country’s provinces.

It has gone on to claim nearly 6,800 lives in Iran.

‘Special ceremony’

President Hassan Rouhani, whose government has faced criticism for being slow to react to the crisis, praised worshippers for abiding by health guidelines.

“There were concerns about how people would follow health guidelines if mosques were opened, but last night, you found that it was a special ceremony,” he said on Wednesday.

“Wherever people participated, they followed all the instructions,” he said in televised remarks.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki had sounded a note of caution on Tuesday as he announced the special reopening for three out of the next five nights.

And on Wednesday he admitted it had been a “difficult and risky decision… criticised by some of my colleagues”.

“Everywhere people observed the instructions, except in one county where, contrary to our protocols, tea was offered to the participants,” he said.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said another 50 people died of coronavirus and 1,958 were infected in the previous 24 hours, taking the overall tolls to 6,783 dead and 112,725 infected.

The Qadr ceremony lasts three nights because the exact time of the revelation of the words of God is unknown.

Those at the first gathering overnight at Tehran’s Al-Hussein mosque appeared to be exalted at the chance to finally pray after being shut out for more than two months.

“We have brought masks and gloves and everything. I think that if we follow the security and health protocols, then nothing will happen to us and we will be able to continue with this ceremony,” said Masoumeh, a housewife.

For Amir Hosein, a private sector worker, it was a chance not to be missed.

“These nights are special for people and I think the government wasn’t able to cancel these ceremonies because we go out and pray together: that is the whole joy of this ceremony.”


COVID-19: South Korea To Ease Social Distancing Rules

People wait in a line to buy face masks at a retail store in the southeastern city of Daegu on February 25, 2020. Jung Yeon-je / AFP


South Korea said Sunday it will loosen social distancing rules this week to allow gatherings and events to take place after the number of new coronavirus cases dropped significantly in recent days.

The country endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the disease outside China and strict social distancing has been widely observed since March.

Scores of events — from K-pop concerts to sports seasons — had been delayed or cancelled, while museums and galleries were closed and religious services suspended.

But the South appears to have brought its outbreak under control thanks to an extensive “trace, test and treat” programme that has drawn widespread praise.

Its reported death toll is around 250 — vastly lower than that of Italy, Britain, Spain and France, which have each recorded at least 24,000 fatalities.

“South Korea will implement the everyday life quarantine scheme starting Wednesday,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a government meeting.

READ ALSO: Russia Reports More Than 10,000 New COVID-19 Infections

“Gatherings and events will be permitted under the condition that they follow disinfection measures,” he added.

The South reported 13 new infections on Sunday, taking the total to 10,793, the Korea Centers for Disease Control said.

Some professional sports, including baseball and soccer, are due to start their new seasons this week after being postponed over virus fears, although the matches will be played behind closed doors.

The government is also set to announce this week the dates for students to return to school, which is expected to be some time around mid-May, according to Yonhap news agency.


We’ve Activated More Labs, Increased Number Of Testing For COVID-19, Says Health Minister

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, at a press conference in Abuja on the confirmed case of coronavirus on February 28, 2020. Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.
(FILE) The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, at a press conference in Abuja. Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.



The Federal Government says more COVID-19 capable laboratories have been activated in the country and as a result, there has been an increase in the testing capacity for the disease.

The Minister for Health, Osagie Ehanire, said this on Tuesday during the briefing by the Presidential Task Force on the COVID-19.

Although he didn’t state any exact figure for how many persons are currently being tested per day, he had stated in an earlier briefing that the testing capacity had increased to 1,500 persons per day.

“We have increased daily testing capacity by activating more COVID-19 capable laboratories and we shall work with the private sector to outsource and diversify more sample collection sites and also improve logistics support,” Ehanire said on Tuesday, adding that details of sample collection sites will be made known in due course by the NCDC.

Speaking about the increasing number of cases in the country, Ehanire noted that it could be a fallout of the improved testing capacity.

He, however, also noted that there’s been evidence of increased community transmissions and over 9,000 contacts have been traced. This according to him, only reinforces the need for strict physical distancing as well as other safety measures.

“We have early evidence of community transmission already which reinforces the urgency of physical distancing, use of facemasks particularly where you know you can’t avoid a crowd or where you know that contact will be forced such as in markets or public transport etc,” he said.

Ondo Govt Imposes Curfew To Curb COVID-19 Spread

A file photo of Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu.



The Ondo State Government has announced that there would be a curfew between 7pm and 7am daily across the 18 local government areas of the state.

Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu announced this on Tuesday, saying more stringent measures had to be put in place to ensure compliance with the regulations passed to control the spread of the COVID19.

The governor also noted that anyone who flouts the directives would be arrested and detained.

“Henceforth we will be imposing a curfew from 7pm to 7am every day with effect from today 14th April 2020 until further notice.

“We will arrest and detain individuals found to have breached government’s directives on the restriction of movement of persons and goods, operation of business premises and community markets, religious gatherings and public bars and other social activities within the state,” Akeredolu stated.

However, there will be exceptions for food and medical items.

“The only exceptions are where food and medical items are sold with total compliance to social and physical distancing rules.

“We will arrest and detain individuals and goods being transported into Ondo State through our borders in breach of the extant directive on total closure of the borders.

“The only exceptions allowed are for purposes of obtaining food, seeking emergency lifesaving or chronic medical attention or obtaining security passes for such journeys in accordance with our regulations.

“The point must be made again that the fight against #COVID19 is a responsibility that will demand utmost seriousness & vigilance. There is a need for effective measures of containment, investigation, enforcement, and control.

“We will not shy away from our duty to ensure same.”

Usain Bolt Goes Viral With ‘Social Distancing’ Olympic Photo

(FILES) This file photo taken on August 16, 2008 shows Jamaica’s Usain Bolt (R) crossing the finish line to win the men’s 100m final at the National stadium as part of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Nicolas ASFOURI / AFP.


Retired track star Usain Bolt showed he’s still a few steps ahead when he posted an AFP picture of him outstripping his rivals at the Beijing Olympics with the cheeky caption: “social distancing”.

Bolt’s post, featuring a picture by AFP photographer Nicolas Asfouri of the 2008 Olympics 100m final, blew up on social media, drawing more than half a million likes and 90,000 retweets.

It showed the Jamaican crossing the finish line at the Bird’s Nest stadium in a then-world record time of 9.69sec, glancing round from lane four as his despairing competitors trail two paces behind.

“Savage”, commented one Twitter user, while New York Times journalist Christopher Clarey posted another picture of Bolt out in front on his own, captioned “self isolation”.

Bolt’s chest-thumping celebration in Beijing added to a legend that grew further when he won the 200m in another world-record time. He retired in 2017 with eight Olympic gold medals and the current 100m mark of 9.58sec, set in 2009.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: IMF Approves Debt Relief For 25 Poor Countries

Bolt, 33, has been encouraging Jamaicans to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic, posting videos of himself exercising at home and juggling footballs with a friend. He also helped promote a major fundraiser, Telethon Jamaica.

After retiring from athletics, Bolt, a Manchester United fan, attempted to launch a career in football, and had a trial with Australia’s Central Coast Mariners before contract talks failed.

COVID-19: UK Warns Of Tougher Social Distancing Measures

A woman wearing a face mask passes a Public Health England sign, warning passengers arriving on flights into the UK, that a virus, Coronavirus, has been detected in Wuhan in China, at Terminal 4 of London Heathrow Airport in west London on January 28, 2020. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP


The British government on Sunday warned that outside exercise could be banned if people flout stringent guidelines to cut the spread of coronavirus infections.

The UK government on March 23 ordered a three-week shutdown of non-essential shops and services to cut close-contact transmission of the virus.

But warmer weekend weather has stoked fears that people could congregate in parks and open spaces, potentially threatening any gains made in cutting transmission rates.ark was closed on Sunday after concern about high numbers of sunbathers on Saturday.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who himself tested positive for COVID-19, told Sky News television that sunbathing was “against the rules” and anyone doing so put lives at risk.

He told the BBC most people were following guidance only to leave their homes to shop for essential supplies and medicine, and to exercise once a day.

But he said it was “quite unbelievable” that a minority were not.

“The truth is the more people go out from home, the more the virus spreads,” he added.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Oil Prices Fall As Doubts Grow Over Output Cut Deal

“I don’t want to have to take away exercise as a reason to leave home because people are not following the rules…

“If the result of that is that too many people go out and flout the rules I’m afraid we’ll have to take action.”

Hancock later told a daily government briefing changes to social distancing rules were “not imminent”.

– Medical officer rapped –

Meanwhile in Scotland, the country’s chief medical officer apologised for ignoring her own advice about non-essential travel.

Police said they warned Catherine Calderwood for twice visiting her family’s second home more than an hour from Edinburgh after photographs were published in a newspaper.

Chief constable Iain Livingstone of Police Scotland said officers “spoke to her about her action, reiterated crucial advice and issued a warning about her future conduct”.

Calderwood, who fronts a public advertising campaign urging Scots to stay at home, told a news conference: “What I did was wrong. I’m very sorry. It will not happen again.”

She added: “This was a mistake. Human error. And there’s no excuses. I should not have done what I did.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said people’s criticism and anger was justified, and she was right to apologise. But she backed her to remain rather than resign.

“She should not have got this wrong… But I need to have the best possible expertise… if we are to steer the best course through this,” she added.

– Queen makes rare address –

The developments came as Britain reported 621 more deaths as of 1600 GMT on Saturday, taking the total toll to 4,934.

Sunday saw Queen Elizabeth II made a rare televised national address to thank healthcare workers on the frontline of the fight against the virus, promising that a united effort would help defeat the disease.

The queen warned the situation could persist but said the outbreak would be defeated through a collective effort in a “common endeavour”, including through scientific cooperation.

The British toll — down from a record day-on-day high of 708 as of Friday, after a week of steady increases — includes a five-year-old child and seven healthcare workers.

There were 47,806 confirmed hospital cases as of 0800 GMT on Sunday, up 5,903 on the previous 24 hours.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and heir to the throne Prince Charles have both tested positive for mild symptoms of the disease.

The state-run National Health Service (NHS) later announced the death of a 54-year-old midwife who contracted the virus.

Lynsay Coventry died on Thursday in Essex, southeast England, and is the first serving NHS midwife whose death has been publicly confirmed, it said in a statement.

Health officials on Friday said two other nurses had died.


COVID-19: How We Plan To Implement Social Distancing In Lagos Markets, Transport System – Sanwo-Olu


As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing becomes highly necessary, many Nigerians have raised concerns over how the new measure can be effectively implemented especially with the nation’s huge population.

In cities like Lagos State with an estimated population of over 20 million people, the questions on the lips of many revolve around “how to effectively implement social distancing, how to go to the market or how to commute from place to place without having body contact with people” – a task considered as almost impossible by many.

As the government makes frantic efforts to curb the spread of the virus, people have simply been advised to stay at home and limit their contacts with people.

But although restrictions have gradually been put in place in some places, activities across the country have not been completely shut down, leaving individuals and private business owners at liberty to go about their businesses.

So far, markets, as well as the public transport system currently prove to be one of the highest risk points but the Lagos State government has assured residents that steps are being taken to minimise such risks.

“We’ve had conversations with the heads of our markets from the Iya-oloja general to all of the market men and women and part of the things we have said to them is that they need to scale up their advocacy immediately,” the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said during a statewide address on Sunday.

“They must ensure that even when people come to the market, they obey this self-isolation so today, we’ve called them and we’ve passed on this message to them.

“The commissioner for local government and chieftaincy has also been directed to go round again tomorrow”.

Speaking about the transport system, the governor noted that officials of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) had been instructed to ensure that the BRT buses which have a capacity of 47 passengers, should only carry sitting passengers.

“At the various bus stops and buses, like I mentioned to you on Friday, we are working with the NURTW to ensure that it is only sitting passengers that are carried.

“People should not be standing on those buses. It has a capacity of 47 passengers, that is the maximum and it stays within our limit of 50 people in a gathering which keeps it safe and secure,” the governor said.

Lagos Gives Stay-At-Home Order To Civil Servants Over Coronavirus
COVID-19: Total Of 30 Cases Now Confirmed In Nigeria

Earlier on in his address, he had announced a stay-at-home order for all public officers from Grade level 1 to 12 over the next 14 days as part of precautions to curb the spread of the virus.

According to him, once this is implemented, considering the fact that public officers make up over 70% of the entire public workforce, it significantly reduces the number of people on the roads to start with.

“If I can stop over 70% of my staff from coming to work, it means that I have taken a sizeable number off the roads,” the governor said.