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Scores of worshippers pray together at Islamic gathering in Bangladesh

Thousands of of worshippers set up camp on a Bangladeshi river bank this week for a four-day Islamic gathering with few masks and no social distancing in sight.  

Crowds were mingling at close quarters at the festival on the banks of the Kirtankhola river where worshippers prayed together and listened to sermons from Islamic scholars.  

Local media said some worshippers had taken up positions days before the event began, with thousands of volunteers staffing the gathering known as a mahfil. But it was not clear whether any measures were in place to prevent the coronavirus spreading at a gathering which would normally bring together hundreds of thousands. 

Bangladesh currently has a low infection rate with only 470 new cases announced today out of a population of 164million, although testing is limited compared to Western countries. A total of 8,395 have died. 

Gatherings have been restricted on a local basis, schools are closed, and border restrictions are in place including hotel quarantine for arrivals from the UK. But the English-language Dhaka Tribune has lamented Bangladesh's failure to curb large crowds, saying that there have been too many 'rallies and processions' during the pandemic.   

Last March, a massive prayer session - dedicated, of all things, to ridding the country of the virus - sparked an outcry after police said 10,000 people had gathered in an open field.  

Large gathering: Boats were moored on the banks of the Kirtankhola river in Bangladesh where scores of worshippers set up camp for a four-day Islamic gathering with few masks and no social distancing in sight  

Close quarters: Worshippers were packed together under a canopy and sitting behind a wire-mesh fence during the gathering known as a mahfil, a word meaning congregation or assembly 

From above: This aerial view shows crowds of people mingling on pathways and under canopies during the large gathering 

Uncovered: Most people were not wearing masks, although a few face coverings were dotted around the crowds. It was not clear whether any other measures were in place to prevent the spread of the virus 

Audience: Worshippers sit at close quarters as they listen to a speaker during the four-day event in Bangladesh, which has a low infection rate compared to Western countries but also more limited testing  

Campus: People were walking between canopies at the event where people prayed together and listened to Islamic scholars

Spectators: A large crowd assembled under this canopy, at an event staffed by thousands of volunteers and where some participants had arrived days before the festival began 

In line: People filed past canopies as they walked around the campus on the side of a river, with one person here in a mask 

Address: Worshippers listen to one of the speakers at the four-day festival which began on Wednesday and finishes on Saturday 

Canopy: Scores of people at the gathering on Friday, with one person standing by the fence wearing a red face covering 

Assembly: Large numbers of people were gathered despite ongoing transmission of the virus in Bangladesh 

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