Mosque Allowed to Let 400 Muslims Celebrate Eid Despite COVID Limits on Churches
Sydney mosque granted special permission from city, despite restrictions on gatherings
City officials in Sydney, Australia have granted special permission to a mosque to host an Eid al-Adha celebration this weekend for 400 Muslims, despite restrictions on church gatherings due to COVID-19.
Worshippers will be free to gather at the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque in western Sydney to celebrate the Islamic event - even though coronavirus clusters have emerged from churches and funerals.
Attendees will have to sign-in, be subject to temperature checks, wear a mask, and bring their own prayer mats.
Social distancing rules will also need to be observed while praying.
They will be split into four zones, with each area limited to 100 people under coronavirus restrictions, that will allow a total of 400 to gather in two levels of the mosque, a function hall, and the parking lot.
The special permission was only granted as a one-off, however, and COVID restrictions are to remain in place for all other churches.
The mosque has promised to only allow a maximum of 400 people to attend - far fewer than the several thousand who normally gather for the Eid celebration, according to The Daily Mail.
The mosque's one-off exemption comes after two cases of coronavirus were linked to a church and four more were tied to a funeral service in Sydney.
The mosque's president Abdurrahman Asaroglu said they have implemented the appropriate measures to reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak occurring during the annual event.
"Our community is really understanding and they are OK to follow these measures — no shaking hands, no hugging — making sure that they just pray," Dr. Asaroglu told ABC.
"If everyone does the right thing I don't think there will be any issues."
In 2019, nearly 3,000 worshippers attended Eid al-Adha prayers at the mosque and thousands more spilled onto the streets nearby.
Dr. Asargolu said the large attendance that occurred last year would not be replicated this year.
He said if more than 400 people arrive at the mosque, they would be turned away.
"If anybody is not abiding by the regulations, we have security to make sure that they are excluded," he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was concerned with larges gatherings at places of worship.
Mr. Morrison, who is a devout Christian, said he and wife Jenny had not been to church in months.
"I know faith is very important to people, but even at times like this, it's even more important that we don't gather in those large groups," he told 2GB radio on Friday.
"As important as faith is, that we really do think of the health issues here.
"I just want to encourage everyone to make positive decisions when it comes to how they choose to celebrate their faith over this important time for that (Islamic) community."
NSW Health said the mosque was granted an exemption as it had proven to the department they had developed a comprehensive COVID-19 Safety Plan.
This comes after two churches and a funeral home in Sydney's west became the source of coronavirus clusters.
A woman in her 40s from Fairfield was diagnosed with coronavirus on July 23 and had attended five funerals over four days.
She attended St Brendan's Catholic Church in Bankstown for one hour on July 16 from 6.30 pm.
The woman was also at Ausia Funeral Services at Fairfield East on July 17 between 1.00 pm and 8.00 pm.
Finally, she went to the Our Lady of Mt Carmel Catholic Church at Mt Pritchard for one hour on July 19 from 7.30 am.
Four cases were identified on July 24 and were linked to the woman including a couple in their 60s from the NSW north coast and another couple in their 50s and 60s.
Those who attended any of the same services as the woman have been told by NSW Health they need to self-isolate, even if they show no symptoms, and be tested for COVID-19.