Coronavirus’s haunting spectre has thrown world religions into chaos, with mass gatherings cancelled and some of the world’s most holy sits shutting down for the foreseeable future.
The coronavirus crisis has now reached every major continent on Earth and has forced governments to shut their borders and keep millions under lockdown.
Since it emerged in December, COVID-19 has infected 201,000 people and killed 8,000 at astonishing breakneck speed.
The rapid spread of the virus has even led some Christians to believe we are living in the End Times and that COVID-19 is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, namely Pestilence.
Despite the alarming measures being introduced by Governments across the globe, officials argue they will keep us safe in the long run and see us through the crisis.
Many of these measures have also been taken by religious groups and leaders to stop the deadly virus from claiming lives at some of the world’s most holy sites.
The holiest site in the world for Muslims welcomes millions of worshippers every year and is widely believed to be the greatest number of people gathered at one time during Hajj.
Year-on-year incredible images of Muslims circling the Kaaba counter-clockwise seven times reveal the extraordinary effort as they make their pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
But, haunting images taken this month have shown the impact of the Government’s lockdown of its holy sites, with barely a handful of people being spotted in the snaps.
While worship will continue at the Grand Mosque, people have been banned from touching the Kaaba and performing the Umrah pilgrimage, which is not compulsory and can be done at any time, has been suspended.
St Peter’s Basilica, one of the most holy places in the world for Catholics, shut its doors on the orders of the Pope.
The move was also followed by Rome’s numerous Catholic churches, which closed on Thursday due to the pandemic.
Cardinal Angelo De Donatis’s decree will run until April 3, although it is likely to be extended if the coronavirus continues to devastate Italy.
The country is only second behind China in terms of numbers of cases and deaths with 31,506 being confirmed to have COVID-19 and another 2,503 having been killed by it.
The birthplace of Jesus Christ, usually bustling with Christians keen to trace the route of his birth, is now completely empty.
Video shared on Twitter showed the city’s narrow streets barren of all people as shops remain closed and citizens stay at home.
It is even eerier as the period around Easter is extremely popular for tourists, but this year celebrations are likely to be muted as visitors are banned from entering Bethlehem.
Already, Israel has shut off its borders and has quarantined all arrivals coming into the country.
Believed by Muslims to be the site where Mohammed ascended to heaven, the mosque and Dome of the Rock closed their doors to visitors.
Outdoor prayers will continue for the time being, but officials are keeping a close eye on the evolving coronavirus crisis.
The director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque Omar Kiswani said on Sunday: “The Islamic Waqf department decided to shut down the enclosed prayer places inside the blessed Aqsa mosque until further notice as a protective measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“All prayers will be held in the open areas of the Aqsa Mosque.”
Typically a bustling site filled with Hindu worshippers, the Siddhivinayak temple shut its doors to worshippers.
As it is one of the most visited shrines in the city of Mumbai, the local government decided to close off the temple as one of several measures aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
The temple, dedicated to Lord Ganesh, usually attracts hundreds through its doors every day and was considered to be a potential hotbed for more cases.
Siddhivinyak Temple chairman Adesh Bandekar explained the decision to close until March 31, at the earliest.
He added: “Thousands of people come to the temple to pay respect. In the current situation, it is our responsibility to deal with the crisis."
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