Islamic clerics in Pakistan on Thursday defied a government call to close mosques for daily prayers and Friday congregations amid a nationwide lockdown as coronavirus infections surged past 1,100.
President Arif Alvi and regional governors held a meeting with influential Sunni and Shiite leaders to convince them to close tens of thousands of mosques across the country, but the clerics refused, Religious Affairs Minister Noor Qadri said.
“We can in no way close mosques … It is not possible in any circumstances in an Islamic country,” said Muneeb-bur-Rehman, a cleric who attended the meeting with the president.
The news comes amid a spike in new infections this week, bringing the total number of cases to 1,118.
Hundreds of thousands of people gather at mosques across Pakistan on Fridays for weekly prayers, which last for more than an hour.
Pakistani authorities already enforced a countrywide lockdown from Monday, with troops and police forcing people to stay indoors.
Educational institutions, offices and private companies are closed, roads are deserted and transportation has come to a halt in the country of more than 200 million people.
Earlier this week, authorities in the capital Islamabad sealed off at least two neighbourhoods where they had found several infected people linked to a 100,000-strong religious congregation two weeks ago.
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