INTEGRATION OF IMAM TO MANAGE CORONAVIRUS DISEASE (COVID-19)

Muslim Must Read This Publication.

The transmission of COVID-19 is facilitated by close contact between people, as the virus is spread through respiratory droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces. To mitigate the public health impact, several countries have implemented physical distancing measures aimed at interrupting transmission by reducing interaction between people. These measures are fundamental control mechanisms to control the spread of infectious diseases, particularly respiratory infections, associated with large gatherings of people. Physical distancing measures, including the closing of mosques, monitoring of public gatherings and other restrictions on movement, will have direct implications for the social and religious gatherings central to Ramadan.  

Purpose   Countries around the world are taking different measures to control the spread of COVID-19. This document highlights public health advice for social and religious practices and gatherings during prayers that can be applied across different national contexts.   

Informed decision making for conducting religious and social gatherings   cancelling social and religious gatherings should be seriously considered. WHO, therefore, recommends that any decision to restrict, modify, postpone, cancel, or proceed with holding a mass gathering should be based on a standardized risk assessment exercise.1  

If cancelling social and religious gatherings, where possible, virtual alternatives using platforms such as television, radio, digital, and social media can be used instead.  If religious gathering are allowed to proceed, measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission should be implemented.   

National health authorities should be considered the primary source of information and advice regarding physical distancing and other measures related to COVID-19 in the context of prayer places. Compliance with these established measures should be assured. Religious leaders should be involved early in decision making, so that they can be actively engaged in communicating any decision affecting events connected with prayers.    

A strong communication strategy is essential to explain to the population the reasons for decisions taken.  Clear instructions should be given and the importance of following national policies reinforced.  The communication strategy should also include proactive messaging on healthy behaviours during the pandemic and use different media platforms.    

Overarching considerations   Advice on physical distancing   

• Practice physical distancing by strictly maintaining a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet) between people at all times during prayers.   • Use culturally and religiously sanctioned greetings that avoid physical contact, such as waving, nodding, or placing the hand over the heart.    • Stop large numbers of people gathering in places associated with prayer activities, such as entertainment venues, markets, and shops.    

Advice to high-risk groups  

 Urge people who are feeling unwell or have any symptoms of COVID-19 to avoid attending events and follow the national guidance on follow-up and management of symptomatic cases.    Urge older people and anyone with pre-existing medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease,  

         These are diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer) not to attend gatherings, as they are considered vulnerable to severe disease and death from COVID-19.       Mitigation measures for physical gatherings    Venue   

Consider holding the event outdoors if possible; otherwise, ensure that the indoor venue has adequate ventilation and air flow   Shorten the length of the event as much as possible to limit potential exposure   Give preference to holding smaller services with fewer attendees more often, rather than hosting large gatherings   Adhere to physical distancing among attendees, both when seated and standing, through creating and assigning fixed places, including when praying, performing wudu (ritual ablutions) in communal washing facilities, as well as in areas dedicated to shoe storage.   Regulate the number and flow of people entering, attending, and departing from worship spaces, pilgrimage sites, or other venues to ensure safe distancing at all times   Consider measures to facilitate contact tracing in the event that an ill person is identified among the attendees of the event like providing personal identification for all attendees  Consider on-line prayer services were by Imams, priests offer free religious consultations and prayer services. Ensure the involvement of security services like the police so they can carry out regular  Checkups, crowd management among others. Involvement of health services were routine medical checkups are strictly monitored.

Ensure that hand washing facilities are adequately equipped with soap and water and provide alcohol based hand-rub (at least 70% alcohol) at the entrance to and inside mosques.    Ensure the availability of disposable tissues and bins with disposable liners and lids, and guarantee the safe disposal of waste.   Encourage the use of personal prayer rugs to place over carpets.    Provide visual displays of advice on physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and general messages on COVID-19 prevention.    Frequently clean worship spaces, sites, and buildings   enforce routine cleaning of venues where people gather before and after each event, using detergents and disinfectants.     In mosques, keep the premises and wudu facilities clean, and maintain general hygiene and sanitation.    Frequently clean often-touched objects such as doorknobs, light switches, and stair railings with detergents and disinfectant.      Charity   When the faithful give special attention to those who may be adversely affected while distributing their sadaqat or zakah, consider the physical distancing measures in place. 

Physical activity

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are restricted in their movements; but, if restrictions allow, always practice physical distancing and proper hand hygiene even during any exercise activity. In lieu of outdoor activities, indoor physical movement and online physical activity classes are encouraged. 

To minimize the spread of covid 19 Islamic countries and other faiths have put a ban on gatherings. Though it’s obligatory to attend congregation prayers. Both Sunni and Shia clerics have rulings on the religious activities during the pandemic.  Their rulings have led conflicts between the govt and religious leaders especially where the police had to enforce the quarantine regulations. Others have opposed quarantine rules and regulations publicly thus confrontation. Even those who previously supported the lockdown restrictions are no longer interested. The medical practitioners and public health experts have advised the government against completely lifting the lockdown restrictions since it would increase the risk of exposure.

Worldwide consultations are still on to address the changing environments of covid 19.with changing guidelines mixed reactions from the population. This requires corporation between the government and religious leadership at local and national levels to manage covid 19 outbreak

 Engaging imam of the mosque:  Muslims perform prayers five times a day not mention the weekly Friday congregational prayer: The key question whether imams can partner with government & MOH  to deal with covid 19 crisis?

 Imams are sources of information on religious and community service.  The need to contact lmams across a pilot of study of Kampala and Wakiso to share information about public health and safety measures against covid 19

Findings from the initial survey of over 100 imams from 21st April to 14th may 2020

What other mosque administration have done around the globe, 

Al Aqsa mosque closed since 23rd March 2020.      Hotline established calling follower to pray from home. End of the Adhan ,a line is added stay home and have prayers there.  Live streaming of Friday sermon and prayers. Turkey’s faith mosque closed. Broadcasting through speakers, classes and Quran reading conducted online UAE. Abudhabi closed since March 15th   Iraq’s moussawi grand mosque closed since March 17th. Constant reminders sent about its closure  East London mosque closed since March 24th. Muslim council of Britain called for suspension of communal prayer s setup video links to live stream sermon and activities, broadcasting five daily prayers and Friday prayers via Adhan radio, YouTube and Facebook pages.  On calling for Adhan  ” hayaa ala al_ Salah replaced sallufi buytutikim( pray in your Homes) classes held online  National mosque of Malaysia closed since March 17 prayer are held at home. Control of individual movements   Islamic cultural center of Network. Closed since 28th  March Friday prayer and weekend prayers posted on their website and via zoom

Writer :Mr Nyanzi Abubaker-Lecturer St Lawrence University -For ICT And Entrepreneurship.

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