April 24, 2020 / 9:18 AM / a month ago

Pakistan's Sindh province bans prayer at mosques during Ramadan

FILE PHOTO: A vendor sets the dates while selling them from a stall, ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Karachi, Pakistan April 22, 2020. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan’s Sindh province banned communal prayers on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan on Friday, heeding the advice of doctors who are urging Pakistan’s central government to tighten its restrictions on mosque congregations.

Governments of Asian nations with large Muslim populations have urged people to keep their distance while observing their faith during the fasting month, which gets underway shrouded in fear over the coronavirus.

Last week, Pakistan ceded to pressure from religious leaders and eased restrictions on mosques in time for Ramadan, when congregations tend to swell in number.

“The Sindh government has decided people should offer Ramadan’s Taraweeh (evening) prayers at home,” Sindh’s Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said in a video message broadcast on local television stations on Friday.

Shah said he was acting on the advice of doctors.

“Our hospitals are overwhelmed with patient inflows; we don’t want our health system to collapse,” he said.

Pakistan, the world’s second most populous Muslim country after Indonesia, has reported more than 11,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 237 deaths. Both the government and experts say the peak for infections is expected to hit in May.

Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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