Top doc urges maintaining social distancing during Ramadan


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Health protocols to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus don’t discriminate when it comes to the most important holidays for religious communities.

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This article was published 18/04/2020 (853 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Health protocols to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus don’t discriminate when it comes to the most important holidays for religious communities.

Care home staff member tests positive for COVID-19

The Fred Douglas Lodge Personal Care Home announced Friday that a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. The memo said that the staff member is not involved in direct resident care and had last worked on April 8. The employee is now in self-isolation. The care home says it is following the advice of public health officials.

Manitoba chief public health officer Brent Roussin warned that just as Christians needed to prepare for Easter celebrations to look much different last weekend, so too must Muslims prepare for the holy month of Ramadan to be much less of a communal celebration.

Saturday, Roussin reported three new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, raising the number of lab-confirmed positive and probable positive cases in the province to 253. Seven of those people are in hospital, with four patients in intensive care despite his continued message that social distancing is as critical now as it has been up to this point.

“This virus is still in Manitoba,” Roussin said. “If we reverse our course now, we are likely to see a climb in cases. So we must double our efforts at social distancing.”

Chart showing daily cumulative counts of positive COVID-19 cases Chart showing Manitoba's reported COVID-19 cases by age and gender

He noted that many mosques have already cancelled prayer services and he reiterated that the public health orders apply to all faith-based organizations; no religious gatherings are exempt from the restriction limiting gatherings to fewer than 10 people.

Idris Elbakri, president of the Manitoba Islamic Association, says mosques have been closed for over a month now and religious and community leaders have been preparing various virtual activities to help people celebrate Ramadan, but still he said the month of fasting will be very different this year.

“It’s a big deal,” Elbakri said. “It’s a time of total refinement with a focus of getting close to God. But also it’s an intense time of communal connection.”

After each day of fasting there is typically communal prayers and worship, followed by the breaking of the fast, known as iftar. All of this is typically shared, and this year it will be an isolating experience. Elbakri says he’s trying to stay positive, but he’s not sure what that might feel like after two weeks of daylight fasting.

“We’re going to miss that, alot. I think we’re going to have a sense of intense isolation. But, on the other hand, I think Ramadan is about learning to be patient. That’s a big part of what Ramadan tries to teach us, and I think this will be even more relevant this year. We have to be patient and we have to do our part to ensure that we don’t contribute to the growth of (coronavirus) cases in our community,” he said.

The impact of coronavirus on Ramadan celebrations is being felt globally by the Muslim community as group prayers have also been suspended in Saudi Arabia, the country which is home to the Muslim holy sites in the cities of Mecca and Medina.

“It will be a global non-event,” Elbakri said. “I sense a lot of sadness about those prayers being suspended.”

Elbakri said the Muslim communities in Winnipeg are still working hard to offer new ways of providing food to those who need it – another staple of Ramadan – but they’re having to explore new methods in light of the new health protocols in place this year.

Roussin said he was not particularly concerned with any impact fasting for Ramadan might have on the immune systems of individuals in the Muslim community, rather he wanted to encourage people to connect virtually instead of in person.

The number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in Manitoba continues to grow, with 140 people reporting their recoveries. The total number of active cases in the province in 108 and five people have died after contracting the virus.

Twitter: @SarahLawrynuik

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