New Delhi: As the holy month of Ramadan this year falls between late April and late May amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has urged people to keep maintaining physical distancing.
"Practice physical distancing by strictly maintaining a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet) between people at all times," the WHO said in its interim guidance titled "Safe Ramadan practices in the context of the COVID-19."
"Use culturally and religiously sanctioned greetings that avoid physical contact, such as waving, nodding, or placing the hand over the heart," said the document.
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 of the virus 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," said WHO.
"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," said the document that highlights public health advice for social and religious practices and gatherings during Ramadan that can be applied across different national contexts.
Saying that cancelling social and religious gatherings should be seriously considered, WHO recommended that any decision to restrict, modify, postpone, cancel, or proceed with holding a mass gathering should be based on a standardised risk assessment exercise.
While cancelling social and religious gatherings, where possible, virtual alternatives using platforms such as television, radio, digital and social media can be used instead, the WHO said.
Cancelling social & religious gatherings during #Ramadan should be seriously considered.
If that's the case, where possible, virtual alternatives using platforms such as television, radio, digital & social media can be used instead https://t.co/Zq2XQBS6FN#COVID19#coronavirus pic.twitter.com/STp6JIAE6c
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) April 18, 2020
If Ramadan gatherings are allowed to proceed, measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission should be implemented, it added.
"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 Ramadan. Compliance with these established measures should be assured," said the guidance document.
In India, Islamic scholars from all schools of thought on Thursday appealed to Muslims to offer prayers during the holy month of Ramadan at their homes in view of the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus.
Ulemas and Muftis, in their joint appeal, urged the community to offer 'Taraveeh' prayers at their homes.
They also advised members of the community to eat 'Sahr' (pre-dawn meals for fast) and 'Iftar' (breaking the fast) at their homes. They were urged not to go to the mosques for 'Iftar.'