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Coronavirus: WHO recommendations during the holy month

With the Covid-19 pandemic, it is in exceptional circumstances that Muslims around the world are called to fast the month of Ramadan, a time of prayer, sharing and fellowship. In order to reconcile this month’s practices and the safety of people in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a series of tips inviting people to live with new health guidelines to avoid virus contamination.

In general, the UN agency believes that the decisions must be part of a comprehensive approach taken by the national authorities to respond to the epidemic. And if social and religious gatherings are canceled, virtual alternatives (television, radio, digital platforms, social media) are possible. If Ramadan gatherings are allowed, measures to mitigate the risk of transmission of Covid-19 should be applied.

In any case, WHO invites people to consider national health authorities as the main source of information and advice on physical distancing and other measures to stem Covid-19 in the context of Ramadan.

In addition, religious leaders must be involved in decisions upstream, so that they actively relay any decision that may affect events related to Ramadan. In any case, WHO believes that a solid communication strategy is essential to explain to the populations the motivations behind the authorities’ decisions. And messages about behaviors to adopt should be part of the communication strategy.

Recalling that at this stage, no study has been carried out on fasting and the risk of infection with the Covid-19 virus, the specialized agency of the United Nations first notes that if healthy people should be able to fast during this Ramadan, as in previous years, patients with Covid-19 should, however, “consider not doing so”. “They must follow the exemptions provided for by religion, in consultation with their doctor, as with any other disease,” notes the WHO.

For the Organization, a healthy diet, adequate hydration and good nutrition are essential during the month of Ramadan. “People must consume a diverse set of fresh products and unprocessed foods every day, and drink lots of water,” said the agency.

WHO also points out that close contact between people facilitates the transmission of the coronavirus, which is spread “by respiratory droplets and by contact with contaminated surfaces”. To mitigate the public health impact, several countries have put in place physical distancing measures aimed at interrupting transmission by reducing interactions between people.

According to the UN agency, these measures constitute “essential mechanisms” to control the spread of infectious diseases, in particular respiratory infections, associated with large gatherings of people.

For this Ramadan present, the cancellation of social and religious gatherings must be “seriously considered”. WHO therefore recommends using a standardized risk assessment when making any decision to restrict, modify, delay, cancel or maintain a mass gathering. These include supererogatory prayers made in a group during this sacred month.

However, smoking is strongly discouraged under any circumstances, especially during Ramadan and during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the WHO, regular smokers may have preexisting lung disease or reduced lung capacity, which greatly increases their risk of developing severe form of Covid-19, an increased risk from finger contact, cigarette (which can be contaminated itself) and the lips, “which increases the probability of entry of the virus into the respiratory system”, warns the WHO.

Regarding people at risk, such as the elderly and those with a pre-existing condition (for example, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease or cancer), the WHO urges them “not to join gatherings” because such gatherings expose them to “develop or die from a severe form of Covid-19”.

Believers who wish to make donations (“sadaqat” or “zakat”) to those affected must respect the measures of physical distancing in force.

“Even if the practices are performed differently this year, it is important to reassure believers by explaining that they can always think, pray, be generous and help others – while keeping a healthy distance,” adds the same. source.

For WHO, people should also take care to maintain links with family, friends and the elderly, keeping a physical distance. “It is essential to encourage the use of alternative means of communication, in particular digital,” said the UN agency.

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