Auckland Islamic centre closes as precaution over coronavirus

An Islamic centre has closed amid concerns a person infected with coronavirus could be among their number.

Some adherents of Shia Islam in Auckland are worried people close to the confirmed cases in New Zealand, linked to Iran, may have circulated in their community.

The concerns arose because many Shia people in the city are of Iranian origin. Upwards of 90 per cent of people in Iran belong to that branch of Islam. 

Khasim Shah, of the Islamic Ahlul Bayt Foundation of New Zealand, said he did not know if the man in his 60s, who returned to the city from Iran then tested positive, was connected to their community.

Nor did he know if the man in his 40s, who contracted coronavirus after his family returned from Iran, was among those who went to the centre or the Shia mosques in Auckland.

Officials had given no word either way, Shah said, but all Shia centres in the city were closing as a precaution, he said.

The Foundation has a Hussainiya, or congregation hall for members of the Shia branch of Islam, in Pakuranga Heights, east Auckland.

The identities of the infected people, or whether they are of Iranian descent, has not been confirmed.

A Ministry of Health spokesman said the tracing of people who may have had contact with infected people generally involved close contacts, “which may explain … why some organisations or individuals are contacted and others aren’t”.

The closure meant the cancellation of events planned for Sunday to mark the birth of Imam Ali, a cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who is venerated by Shia.

“It’s a big event for Shias,” Shah said.

About 3000 people have been infected and at least 92 killed by coronavirus in Iran.

At least 23 members of its parliament are infected.

Auckland Islamic centre closes as precaution over coronavirus