Al-Aqsa mosque, 3rd holiest in Islam, closes over virus
The Islamic endowment overseeing the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, says the mosque itself and other buildings will be closed over concerns about the new coronavirus.
Sheikh Omar Kiswani, the director of the mosque, said Sunday that prayers will continue to be held outdoors. The closure is to continue indefinitely.
Iran’s official leading the country’s response to the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East on Sunday acknowledged that the pandemic could overwhelm health facilities in the country, which is under severe US sanctions.
Iran is battling one of the worst outbreaks outside China, with nearly 13,000 confirmed cases and more than 600 fatalities. The real number of infections could be even higher, as questions have been raised about the government’s transparency.
If the trend continues, there will not be enough capacity, Ali Reza Zali, who is leading the campaign against the outbreak, was quoted as saying by the state-run .
Iran is believed to have around 110,000 hospital beds, including 30,000 in the capital, Tehran. Authorities have pledged to set up mobile clinics as needed.
Zali also acknowledged that many of those who have died from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus were otherwise healthy, a rare admission by local authorities that the virus does not only prey on the sick and elderly.
The Health Ministry released figures showing that while 55% of fatalities were in their 60s, some 15% were younger than 40.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.