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Tajik Mosques Reopen As Government Claims No New Coronavirus Cases

Worshipers fill a mosque open for the first time in nine months in Dushanbe on February 1.

Mosques in Tajikistan have reopened their doors to believers for the first time in nine months following a government order and official claims that there have been no new COVID-19 cases in the country for three weeks.

Hundreds of believers prayed on February 1 at the main mosque in the capital, Dushanbe, for the first time since it was closed in April due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The mosque was disinfected on the eve of the reopening and its rugs were marked with special tapes to remind believers to respect social-distancing rules.

The country's coronavirus count has not changed since early January, when it reached 13,308 infections and 90 fatalities. But testing is not widespread and health experts have cast doubt on the official statistics.

The government has said that mosques in the country will reopen on February 1 as long as they meet sanitary requirements.

Authorities have warned that those mosques that fail to respect hygiene rules will be closed.

Tajikistan has 4,000 registered mosques.

The poorest country in the former Soviet Union has not enforced a full lockdown since the pandemic started, with restaurants remaining open while religious buildings were shuttered.

However, an investigative report by RFE/RL last summer revealed that the actual number of lethal cases of COVID-19 in the country might be several times higher, including dozens of physicians and nurses who treated COVID-19 patients.

With reporting by AFP