Mosques in Maldivian capital to reopen for congregational prayer on Wednesday

People maintain physical distance as they perform their prayers in a mosque in Male' City on June 15, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Mosques in the greater Male’ region are scheduled to reopen for congregational prayer on Wednesday, as Maldives enters a new phase in the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions which will see it steered closer towards a ‘new normal’.

Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced the decision to reopen mosques in the Maldivian capital for congregational prayer over Twitter on Tuesday morning.

“Under new normal rules, mosques in the greater Malé area will also be opened for prayers in congregation from 1st July 2020,” he wrote on Twitter.

Mosques in the capital have been closed for congregational prayer since March 18.

While mosques had initially been open for individual worshippers to perform their prayers, mosques were completely closed with the emergence of the community spread of the new coronavirus in the capital in mid-April.

They were reopened once again for individual worshippers with strict instructions to maintain physical distancing and other coronavirus control measures on June 14.

With the decision to lift the restriction on congregational prayers, the capital will see its first congregational prayers in over three months on Wednesday.

In a visit to the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) on Monday evening, the President announced Maldives will move to a new phase in the combat against the spread of the new coronavirus in July.

A move which is part of the government’s overall strategy to steer the country towards a 'new normal', he said.

The most symbolic change is the decision to dismantle NEOC which had coordinated the national response to the coronavirus pandemic, and represents the largest multi-sectorial government operations center ever established in the Maldives.

NEOC will cease its operations on Wednesday, and have its main responsibilities transferred to the Health Ministry.

Additional relaxation of the coronavirus restrictions will see the reopening of government offices, and the reopening of cafes and restaurants in the capital for dine-in services, also on Wednesday.

Government offices were closed on March 19, and partially reopened for essential work on May 31.

Cafes and restaurants in the capital have been closed for dine-in services since March 22.

Maldives identified its first coronavirus case on March 7, and declared a state of public health emergency over the pandemic four days later on March 11.

While coronavirus cases had initially been restricted to resorts and safaris, and later quarantine facilities holding inbound travelers, Male’ City identified its first coronavirus case on April 15, prompting a city-wide lockdown and a nationwide ban on nonessential travel.

The populous capital quickly emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Maldives, contributing to over 90 percent of total cases.

Maldives has confirmed 2,336 coronavirus cases, out of whom 1,927 have recovered and eight have died from complications.

The number of active cases presently stands at 396, and the recovery rate stands at 82 percent.