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Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre to reopen Sunday

By AFP - May 23,2020 - Last updated at May 23,2020

The Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected will reopen on Sunday two months after its closure in March amid the coronavirus pandemic but strict hygiene measures will be enforced (AFP photo)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre will reopen Sunday after a two-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Christian authorities in the holy city said.

"Starting on Sunday 24th this Holy Place will be accessible again to the faithful for visits and prayers," leaders of the three denominations that share the site said in a statement on Saturday.

They said measures will be enforced to "avoid the risk of a new spread of the COVID-19 infection".

"At the beginning the number will be limited [to 50 persons] and the Basilica will be accessible only to those who have no fever or symptoms of infection and are wearing suitable face coverings," the statement said.

Visitors will be required to wear masks and maintain a two-metre  distance from each other.

Worshippers will also be asked to "avoid any act of devotion that might include physical contact such as touching and kissing the stones, icons, vestments and the personnel in the Basilica", the statement added.

The church was closed on March 25 ahead of the Easter holiday as part of measures imposed to combat the spread of the virus.

The Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic denominations share custody of the Holy Sepulchre.

More than 16,600 cases of the COVID-19 disease have been recorded in Israel, including 279 deaths.

In the occupied West Bank, Palestinian authorities have reported 368 cases and two deaths from the virus.

The church, located in Israeli-occupied and annexed East Jerusalem, is visited every year by millions of pilgrims.

Religious sites were authorised to reopen on Wednesday on the condition that access be limited to 50 people at a time.

The Al AqsaMmosque -- Islam's third holiest site -- will reopen after Eid  Al Fitr, the festival marking the end of holy fasting month of Ramadan on Sunday, the site's governing body announced on Tuesday.

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