Thousands Potentially Infected With COVID-19 At Hagia Sophia Amid Erdogan’s Reopening

President Erdogan of Turkey has made very clear that he wants to revive a “new” Turkey made in the image of her former Ottoman self, and likely to do so by the 100th anniversary of the abolition of the Caliphate, as Turkey sees herself as the “protector” and “guardian” of Islam, and as Europe wants to re-assert herself on a world stage, so Turkey also wants to do the same in her context. However, Erdogan seems to be rushing as fast as possible, and with consequences he may not intend.

Call it what one wants, but Ahval News reports that the re-opening of the Hagia Sophia as a mosque did not go well as it is estimated that because of a lack of social distancing, non-mask wearing, and the rushed nature, three-thousand people have been exposed to and are potentially infected with COVID-19.

Some 3,000 people are believed to have been infected with the coronavirus during the reopening ceremony at Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia on July 24, a Turkish public health expert at a leading university said on Saturday.

The presence of hundreds of asymptomatic patients in the reconversion ceremony last month is likely to lead to a large-scale infection, ANKA news agency quoted associate professor at Ankara’s Hacettepe University, Dr Sarp Üner, as saying.

“A simple calculation shows that there would be 1,000 patients there… If we consider the transmission rate, those patients would have infected between 2,000 to 3,000 others,’’ Üner said. “I believe that the gathering will increase the cases in Istanbul.’’

Turkey held an elaborate ceremony for the reconversion of the 6th century site into a mosque last month after the country’s top administrative court annulled on July 10 a 1934 decree that turned the Byzantine monument into a museum.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan within hours issued a decree to re-convert the site into a mosque, in a move that was met with international condemnation, and the first Friday prayers were held there on July 24 by thousands, including top level state officials.

Guests were required to wear masks and maintain social distancing with only 1,000 VIP guest allowed into the site. Others performed the historic prayer in the courtyard and surrounding areas, where social distancing was not observed. (source)

People say that COVID-19 is a joke, but this is for political reasons. It is not a joke, and viruses do not discriminate based on religion. For all of the talk about problems with churches and closing them, while it can be used as an attack on religion, this is what it has been made into, for it is absolutely true that the spread of germs- not just COVID-19 -is linked to churches, as well as other places of worship. There is a reason why the Catholic bishops have largely given dispensation for people to stay home and watch mass from television, and for those going to church, there are strict sanitary procedures in place at all that I have seen. Likewise, it is not an accident that the hajj for the Muslims was cancelled this year save for those who already live in Saudi Arabia- because of the potential to spread COVID-19 all over the world.

The politicization of this virus is too much. Pandemics happen, they are not fun, but they always pass, and the fastest way to make a pandemic pass is to enable the conditions for the disease to naturally run its course and die out. Making it a political issue only makes it worse for everybody, and does not show “power”, but poor decision making.

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