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Heedless religious leaders expose millions to killer virus

Asian governments have left decisions on prayer gatherings to religious bodies, increasing the risk of Covid-19 spreading

Richard Fang, Hong Kong

Richard Fang, Hong Kong

Updated: March 20, 2020 10:32 AM GMT
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Heedless religious leaders expose millions to killer virus

Hindu women prepare rice porridge around the Attukal Bhagavathi Temple as part of a ritual in Thiruvananthapuram in southern India's Kerala state in February 2014. An estimated 2.5 million women participated in the ritual on March 19, 2020, amid fears of coronavirus spreading in southern India. (Photo: Raveendran/AFP)

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Asia's orthodox religious groups continue to ignore warnings against mass gatherings, threatening to expose millions to coronavirus infection as governments struggle to deal with the pandemic.

A Muslim gathering expected to be attended by 8,000 people was called off in Indonesia late on March 18 after authorities pleaded with organizers to disperse the collection of pilgrims.

The five-day annual meeting of Asian Zone Muslims was to start this weekend in Gowa district of Indonesia's South Sulawesi area, just two weeks after a similar event in Malaysia.

The complacency of religious organizations is apparent despite the World Health Organization (WHO) calling for "aggressive" action in Asian countries to combat a disease that has already killed more than 10,000 people across the globe.

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