Mosques in the Gaza Strip reopened on Wednesday after a 70-day closure due to the coronavirus, with one worshipper saying he was “overjoyed” despite fears over the pandemic.
Wearing a black face mask, an imam in Gaza City led the call to prayer as mosques reopened across the Palestinian enclave with health measures in place.
Worshippers were told to wear face masks inside mosques, which would be regularly disinfected as a precautionary measure, Gaza’s religious affairs ministry said.
Children and sick people were told not to attend prayers.
In Gaza City, worshipper Khader Mussa said he was “overjoyed” to attend dawn prayers but had also been careful to protect his health.
“I got there just two minutes before the start of prayer to avoid contact with other worshippers and then left at the end, without shaking hands with anyone,” the 40-year-old told AFP.
The strip has registered around 60 coronavirus cases and one death, all among Gazans returning to the enclave who have been quarantined on arrival.
After the virus was first detected on March 22, mosques, restaurants and universities were closed.
Some mosques opened their doors 10 days ago for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which celebrates the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, but Wednesday marked a full reopening.
“We are happy mosques have opened,” said Muhammad Hamad, wearing a face mask.
“We thank God, who protected us from the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip,” he added.
The United Nations has warned that a COVID-19 outbreak in Gaza could be disastrous, given its high population density, soaring poverty rates and weak health system.
Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a foe of Israel, which has held the strip under a crippling blockade since 2007.
Two million Palestinians are crowded into the narrow strip of land between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.