Toronto area mosques are taking precautions as coronavirus fears grow with a major Islamic centre going so far as closing all its facilities and cancelling prayers and programs.
The Islamic Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaat of Toronto closed all three of its facilities on March 3 over COVID-19 concerns.
“After much deliberation, and with the best interest of our community in mind, the ISIJ of Toronto has decided to take precaution and close all three of its centres for all programs,” said the organization in a press release.
“The decision to close the centres was not made lightly and was made with the best interest of the safety of our community members and attendees in mind. We shall monitor and update the community as the situation unfolds.”
The ISIJ has set up a special team to monitor the situation and keep their members updated.
“A COVID-19 Task Force has been formed, with medical professionals and other members of the community, to assess and review the current health climate and decide on proactive measures we should be taking for the well-being and safety of our members and attendees.”
At the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, special awareness sessions to educate community members on the coronavirus threat have been held since mid-February.
“We hosted a town-hall meeting on February 18th where we had many important guests attending including the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell and our main speaker was Dr. issac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at University Health Network in Toronto, who made a wonderful presentation about COVID-19,” Imam Dr. Hamid Slimi told IQRA.ca “We also invited the Mississauga Board of Chinese Professionals & Businesses who attended and appreciated the support to the Canadian Chinese community from the Muslim community.”
In the past few weeks, the SKC Centre has intensified its efforts and taken measures to mitigate the risks.
“We have been doing a series of Khutbahs, lectures and social media posts on Prevention, Preparedness and Protection,” added Dr. Slimi. “We recommend people to stay home, if they are sick, and to wear masks, if they have a cold or flu, and to avoid handshaking for now.”
“In addition, as we do every year during the flu season, we put sanitizers by the entrance but this year we tripled the quantity and narrowed the alleys so everyone goes through the sanitization stations.”
“We held 2 training sessions for staff and volunteers with doctors and experts on how to manage the large crowd especially on Fridays during Jumu’ah,” continued Dr. Slimi. “On Feb 28th, we established a dedicated emergency team of staff and volunteers to welcome people to Jumu’ah and ensure the place is not crowded.”
“We reduced the numbers by 20% in settings to avoid close contact between the worshippers. We also spray the prayer carpets with natural disinfectants before and after Jumu’ah.”
Other Muslim community leaders have been advising the elderly and those with underlying health conditions to pray at home and for community members who come to the mosque to bring their own prayer mats.
Discussion are also underway among some Imams on how the community should handle the communal iftar gatherings and night prayers during Ramadan which is set to begin towards the end of April.