Bangladesh has put restrictions on worshippers attending obligatory daily prayers at more than 250,000 mosques nationwide as the number of novel coronavirus cases has surged, officials said yesterday.
“No more than five persons at a time will be allowed to attend the congregations for the daily prayers,” the Religious Affairs Ministry said in an order.
Only the imam, muezzin – who summons to prayer five times a day – and other mosque officials will be allowed to say their prayers inside the mosque, it added.
A maximum of 10 people can attend Friday prayers, which usually draw bigger crowds, the order said, asking people to say their prayers at home instead.
Many residents have been posting questions on social media as to why Bangladesh, with a population of more than 160mn and over 90% Muslim, was allowing praying in large groups when many other Islamic states had banned it due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Soon after the order was issued, many mosques in Dhaka were heard telling people through public announcement systems not to turn up at mosques and offer prayers at home instead.
The South Asian country, which put general restrictions on non-essential offices, public transport and schools on March 26, has reported 123 Covid-19 cases with 12 deaths.
Among them, 35 five cases of infections and three deaths were reported in the last 24 hours ended yesterday morning.
On Sunday, thousands of garment workers were ordered home voicing concerns about loss of income after arriving at work to find factories shut after the cancellation of Western orders due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although official numbers were not available, labour leaders said the majority of the workers they had spoken to had either been temporarily laid off or sent on leave. A smaller section of workers complained of being sacked.
Bangladesh, which ranks behind only China as a supplier of clothes to Western countries, relies on the garment industry for more than 80% of its exports, with some 4,000 factories employing about 4mn people, mostly women.
Many top Western fashion brands manufacture clothing in Bangladesh but cancellations were increasing daily amid coronavirus-driven lockdowns globally.
The workers went to factories in Dhaka hoping to get paid for March and resume work after a 10-day break enforced by the government to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.
Although the government later extended the shutdown to April 14, workers said their owners asked them to return by April 5.
“When they reached the factories this morning, most of the workers were told that they were laid off or that the factory would resume after the shutdown,” said Khadiza Akter, vice president of the union Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation.
Garment worker unions are calling on the government, buyers, or factory owners to pay workers who will struggle to feed themselves and their families with no income.
Bangladesh’s Ministry of Labour and Employment has asked garment factory owners not to sack workers and pay them full salaries for March by April 12.
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