March 21, 2020 / 11:41 AM / 18 days ago

Egypt shuts churches for two weeks over coronavirus fears

CAIRO, March 21 (Reuters) - Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church on Saturday ordered all its churches to shut their doors and suspend masses for two weeks over coronavirus fears, it said in a statement.

Egypt so far registered 285 confirmed coronavirus cases including eight deaths.

The church also banned visits to monasteries and closed condolences halls attached to churches, it added. Each parish will name only one church for funeral prayers and the sermons will be restricted to the family of the deceased.

Christians represent around 10% of the 100 million Egyptian population, according to unofficial estimates. The vast majority of the country’s Christians are orthodox.

Egypt’s Coptic Catholic Church on Friday suspended masses in its churches until further notice, but will keep doors open for individual prayers.

It also restricted funeral prayers to family members.

Mosques are still open for daily and weekly Friday prayers despite calls on the government to shut them to help contain the spread of the virus.

Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad, editing by Louise Heavens

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