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Flurry of mosque closures, despite Government exemption

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#1 [Permalink] Posted on 29th January 2021 16:54
There has been a flurry of voluntary mosque closures in the UK to help curb spiralling Covid-19 infection rates, this, despite places of worship in England being exempt from mandatory shutdowns during the third lockdown and being Covid secure. Almost all major mosques in the London boroughs of Ealing, Hackney, Harrow, Haringey, Kensington, Leyton, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Westminster, to name but a few, have closed their doors during the first week of January.

PM, Boris Johnson, announced a national lockdown on January 4, calling on people to stay home to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives. The decision followed a drastic jump in cases, attributed to the new variant of Covid-19, which is between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible.

New Government guidelines state that the public can attend places of worship for a service. However, in a letter to Johnson, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, demanded all places of worship be closed. Khan warned that more than 1% of the city’s 9 million residents tested positive for Covid-19 in the first week of January, with one in 30 estimated to be infected.

In a statement to The Muslim News, the Mayor of London said the capital’s faith communities have, “from the earliest stages of the pandemic, provided practical help and comfort to Londoners of all backgrounds and beliefs but, with the levels of the virus circulating in our communities as high as it is, I no longer think allowing in-person gatherings is in the best interest of Londoners’ safety.

“That is why I am calling on the Government to close places of worship immediately, save for funeral services. Until that happens, I am urging all of London’s faith communities to look beyond what is technically permitted and focus on the safest course of action for all Londoners – this now means avoiding all communal worship for the time being to help reduce the risk of infections spreading.”

London & the South

One of England’s and the capital’s largest mosques, the East London Mosque closed on January 6, with management vowing to review the decision. A spokesman for East London Mosque, told The Muslim News, “This decision has not been taken lightly. But just as in last March, when we and many other mosques closed even before the Government announced a national lockdown, we’re putting the safety of our congregation, our staff and our volunteers above our strong desire to maintain communal worship.” Neighbouring Brick Lane Jamme Masjid has also closed for the latest lockdown.


Elsewhere in the East end, there were closures in Barking (Al Madina Mosque & Masjid Alnoor); Hackney (Suleymaniye Mosque); Walthamstow (Darul Uloom Qadria Jilania & Jamia Masjid Ghousia) Enfield (Rumi Mosque) and Redbridge (Ilford Islamic Centre & Redbridge Islamic Centre).



In a joint statement, North London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, Muslim Welfare House and Al Risaalah Mosque announced their closure following ‘consultation with Islamic scholars, medical professionals, and other mosques and centres.’ The North Finchley Mosque had announced its closure on January 6.

West London’s most known mosques notably London Central Mosque, Al Manaar and the West London Islamic Centre, Kings Cross Mosque have all closed. In Greater London, the Muslim Forum of Middlesex announced that Harrow’s biggest mosques “suspend all prayers given escalating Covid-19 crisis in the borough.

Following the national lockdown and the extremely dire situation specifically in Harrow with an infection rate close to 1,000 cases per 100,000, there is a real concern that the situation will continue to get worse – a concern reiterated by Harrow Council,” announced the Forum on January 7.

“To keep our communities and the wider society safe, the biggest mosques in Harrow have decided to go beyond Government guidance and suspend all public prayers. The mosques include Harrow Central Mosque, Sri Lankan Cultural Centre, Masjidun Noor, KSIMC London (Hujjat, Stanmore) and SICM (Mahfil Ali), some of which have not re-opened since the beginning of the pandemic,” added the Forum.

A Harrow Central Mosque spokesman said it closed “due to high [Covid-19 infection] numbers and Northwick Park Hospital being full. We didn’t want to take the risk as we spoke to a few doctors, and we were told [the local infection is] one in 15.”
Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre Slough reopened decided to close the mosque from November 5 when Slough was put in Tier 4. Britain’s first (1889) purpose-built mosque, the historic Shah Jahan Masjid in Woking also announced its closure.



Elsewhere

East of England, community update group Islam Bedford announced that all but three mosques in Bedford closed on January 5, namely Bedford Central Mosque, Salaam Kempston Mosque, South Bedford Mosque, Bedford Islamic Centre and Hanfia Ghousia Masjid. In a tweet, the group announced that the mosques reopening “will be reviewed closer to the time.”


Mosques in Pendle, Nelson and Brierfield also closed for individual and communal prayers including Friday prayers.
Scotland & N. Ireland

Belfast Islamic Centre (BIC) closed its doors until the February 6 at the request of the Northern Ireland Assembly following the news that there have been over 30 cases linked to places of worship since reopening. Some single cluster had 50-100 infections and several deaths. And as many as one in 40 people may have Covid-19 in some areas. On January 7, BIC officials met with leaders of most of the major churches, the chief medical officer, the chief scientific officer, senior civil servants and junior ministers from the local Assembly at Stormont.

“Even with the best precautions there is still a chance of transmission should an infected person attend especially concerned over speed and spread of the new strain. Everything else has been asked to close, and they asked us to consider aligning with everyone else.

While the decision was not forced we were very much encouraged to do so. Most of the churches also have agreed to close with immediate effect,” said a spokesman for BIC to The Muslim News. In Scotland, where the closure of places of worship was made mandatory from January 8, mosques took the precautionary decision to close earlier, among them Aberdeen’s Mosque & Islamic Centre and Masjid Alhikmah & Community Centre, Dunfermline Islamic Centre, Islamic Centre Scotstoun in Glasgow and Central Mosque Lanarkshire.

*The mosques named are just a sample of the many across the country that voluntarily closed for the third lockdown. Mosques will be regularly reviewing their local status for re-opening.

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#2 [Permalink] Posted on 29th January 2021 16:59
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#3 [Permalink] Posted on 29th January 2021 17:12
Guidance
COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship
Updated 19 January 2021
A small segment from the link.
The UK Government wrote:
Communal worship, including prayers, devotions or meditations led by a Minister of Religion or lay person: Limits for communal worship should be decided on the basis of the capacity of the place of worship following an assessment of risk.


The UK Government wrote:
“Place of worship”
A place of worship refers to a building used for regular religious ceremonies, communal worship or similar gatherings by religious organisations. It includes the use of surrounding grounds, for example, adjoining carparks, courtyards or gardens for which the venue managers are also responsible.

The guidance also covers premises when being used for religious gatherings, even when their primary purpose is not for religious gatherings, such as a community centre. These premises will only be able to be used where they are permitted to be open and additional guidance may be applicable.

This guidance does not cover educational establishments public parks, private homes, cultural sites or other open spaces, such as woodlands which may be used for religious purposes. If people do want to engage in worship in these spaces, then the guidance relevant to that place should be adhered to.

This guidance applies to places of worship only, and does not apply to private dwellings.


The UK Goverment wrote:
Key principles
Each individual place of worship is strongly advised to apply this guidance with reference to its own specific circumstances, including its size and type of activities, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated.

Venue managers of places of worship will have discretion over when they consider it safe to open and should decide to remain closed if they are not able to safely adhere to the guidelines outlined below.

Venue managers should take all possible steps to secure the safety of the public, ensuring that gathering limits are adhered to. While places of worship will not be mandated to implement any further restrictions that a Local Authority may suggest to control the spread of the virus. Individual venues should work with local authorities, neighbouring businesses and travel operators to assess this risk and apply any additional actions to reduce the risk of transmission. These could include:

  • Further lowering capacity - even if it is possible to seat a larger numbers of people inside a venue safely, it may not be safe for them all to travel to and from, or enter and exit, the venue.
  • Staggering entry times with other local venues and taking steps to avoid queues building up in surrounding areas.
  • Establishing pre-booking arrangements so that, at particularly busy times, no more than can be safely accommodated arrive at the venue.
  • Arranging one-way travel routes between transport hubs and venues. Advising visitors to avoid particular forms of transport or routes and to avoid crowded areas when in transit to the venue.
  • Many places of worship are also workplaces and should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers under health and safety law. Places of worship also have a duty of care to volunteers, to ensure that as far as reasonably practicable they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.


Consideration should be given to how fair and equal access can safely be provided for all users to be able to undertake faith practices within a place of worship, in line with government guidelines and considering requirements under the Equality Act 2010 where these apply.

To help decide which actions to take, we advise that a COVID-19 risk assessment is completed by each place of worship and for some events or gatherings this will be required by law. This may be done in addition to any risk assessment already in place or as a separate assessment.

This link provides generic guidance on completing a risk assessment. Assessments should be done in consultation with unions or workers (including volunteers and contractors) if relevant. It may also be beneficial to discuss the risk assessment with worshippers or other stakeholders (such as neighbouring tenants or property owners) to assist understanding among faith communities and local communities and improve reopening design and execution.

Failure to complete a risk assessment that accounts for COVID-19 could constitute a breach of Health & Safety legislation and could also lead to a breach of law.

Having a risk assessment with insufficient measures set out could also constitute a breach of the above legislation. Places of worship are encouraged to make their risk assessments available online where possible.

Venue managers are strongly advised to take action to minimise the potential for spreading of COVID-19 among worshippers, and those working or volunteering within the building and surrounding grounds. You may want to engage worshippers in co-designing an informal community behaviour agreement.


More on officical website
www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-...
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