By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) - Over 375 mosques across the U.K. have suspended congregations, including traditional Friday prayers, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Muslim Council of Britain said Friday.
The news came as government documents revealed that social distancing might need to be implemented in Britain until autumn.
The Muslim Council of Britain said besides mosques, community centers and prayer facilities, suspended congregational activities, including prayers, events, and weddings.
The suspension encompassed some of Britain’s biggest mosques, including the East London Mosque that has a capacity of 7,000 people and the London Central Mosque with a capacity of 5,000 people.
The council originally made the call to suspend congregational activities on Monday, after taking expert advice from the British Islamic Medical Association and the British Board of Scholars and Islam.
Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Safeguarding all of our communities is paramount, and it’s reassuring so many mosques and prayer facilities have heeded this advice in trying their best to minimise the spread of the coronavirus.
“Crowds at mosques draw the elderly, vulnerable and those who are in high risk. With the increasing rate of transmission and the number of deaths, for the safety of our families, our communities and society, we cannot afford to take any risks.
“We all have an Islamic and public duty to protect one another from harm, and I hope the remaining mosques, Islamic centers and prayer facilities across the U.K. take this extraordinary step in these unprecedented times and suspend all congregational activities.”
With regards to the U.K. as a whole, government documents published on Friday said that social distancing may have to be implemented until autumn in order to control the outbreak.
The documents said the U.K. would have to alternate between “periods of more and less strict social distancing measures” and that “these would need to be in place for at least most of a year.”
The death toll from coronavirus across the U.K. hit 177 on Friday, an increase of 40 over 24 hours -- the largest day-on-day increase since the start of the outbreak.
COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China last December, and has spread to at least 166 countries and territories.
Out of almost 279,000 confirmed cases, the death toll now nears 12,000, and over 89,000 have recovered, according to the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
Despite the rising number of cases, most who become infected suffer only mild symptoms and recover.