Tajikistan said Wednesday it plans to reopen thousands of mosques that were closed last year due to the pandemic, citing the “normalisation of the epidemiological situation” in the ex-Soviet republic.
The government information service Khovar said mosques will reopen across the Central Asian country on February 1 but will face immediate closure if they fail to adhere to sanitary norms.
The statement said worshippers should “strictly observe” hygiene rules and “use medical masks during collective worship …especially during Friday prayers”.
Tajikistan has recorded just over a dozen new coronavirus cases and no deaths since the turn of the year, although some health experts have cast doubt over the statistics and testing is not widespread.
Official data has for more than a week shown 13,308 infections with 90 deaths and 13,218 recoveries — figures that suggest no active cases.
Tajikistan’s 9.5 million population is over 95 percent Muslim and typically devout but the secular authoritarian regime imposes tight controls on religion.
The government was late to declare any cases of the coronavirus, announcing 15 infections April 30 just as a World Health Organization delegation prepared to fly out to the republic to review the pandemic response.
Authorities did not impose a strong lockdown with restrictions on movements of the type seen in other countries, and restaurants remained open even as mosques were shuttered in April.