The Latest: Largest mosque in Southeast Asia cancels prayers

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 244,500 people and killed more than 10,000. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 86,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

—Worldwide death toll due to coronavirus eclipses 10,000.

—Japan, China, South Korean leaders agree to cooperate against coronavirus.

— Italy passes China for most coronavirus-related deaths.

—South Korea voters will be required to wear masks, gloves.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Istiqlal grand mosque in Indonesia’s capital, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, which is usually packed with thousands of Muslims during Friday prayer, decided to cancel mass prayers for the next two weeks to curb coronavirus spread.

The mosque’s Imam, Nasaruddin Umar, says the decision was made following a nationwide ruling or fatwa issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s highest religious authority on Monday, allowing Muslims to temporarily skip mass prayers in regions where the virus has spread “uncontrollably” until the situation returns to normal.

“Prayers in congregations will be suspended in Istiqlal for the next two weeks, including Friday prayers,” Umar said in a video statement televised nationally in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

“We appeal people not to hold mass prayers in other region where the coronavirus had spread until the danger for the contagion disappears,” he said.

His appeal following orders from President Joko Widodo to the people in the world’s most populous Muslis nation to curb mass religious gatherings to contain the coronavirus.

The move came as Indonesia reported 25 deaths from COVID-19, the most in Southeast Asia, and its biggest daily jump of 82 cases to 309.

On Friday, there were still a few people in Istiqlal. Instead of Friday prayer, they held the noon prayer congregation by practicing social distancing of one meter (yard) apart between worshippers.

Most mosques in cities and districts remained out of red zones of coronavirus outbreak, are holding Friday prayers which commonly believed to be obligatory for Muslim men. They are holding prayers with a shorter sermon and the congregation to bring their own prayer mats.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s election commission says all voters will be required to wear masks and use disposable gloves at ballot booths during next month’s national parliamentary elections as preventive measures against the coronavirus.

An official from the National Election Commission also said Friday that election workers will conduct temperature checks and provide separate polling places for voters with fever or respiratory symptoms.

Voters will be required to stand at least a meter apart when waiting in lines and sanitize their hands and wear plastic gloves provided by election workers before entering booths.

The commission will establish voting stations at hospitals and other treatment centers for COVID-19 patients who are medically isolated.

Some politicians had called for the country to postpone the April 15 election, which will be a crucial moment for President Moon Jae-in’s government amid concerns about the epidemic’s impact on public health, livelihoods and industries.

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Foreign ministers from Japan, China and South Korea held a video conference Friday and agreed to continue cooperating in their effort to fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi and his counterparts, China’s Wang Yi and South Korea’s Kang Keung-wha, ensured cooperation among the three countries in their effort and agreed to hold a three-way meeting of health authorities at an early date.

Motegi also proposed sharing of information on drugs and vaccine development, as well as cooperation to ensure shipment of medical supplies and emergency relief goods among the three countries.

Motegi told the other ministers that Japan hopes to fully achieve the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics “as a proof of human victory against the new coronavirus,” the Japnaese foreign ministry said in a statement.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Categories: National News