As Muslims begin to prepare for the month of Ramadan, the NHS has issued a reminder to those who observe the Islamic holy month to avoid social gatherings because of the risk of coronavirus.
Ramadan will be marked all over the world from Thursday 23 April with month-long fasting and observations of spiritual reflection set to end on Saturday 23 May. This is followed by Eid the festival of fast breaking where traditionally family and friends get together to attend special prayers and celebrate the end of the holy month.
Additional guidance and key advice have also been issued to NHS managers and staff working in hospitals and healthcare settings to cover adjustments over working hours and fasting arrangements for Muslim colleagues who are not eating or drinking during daylight hours until evening sunset.
The NHS has a diverse workforce with an estimated 3.3% of the 1.4 million NHS workers being from a Muslim background. Fasting plays an important central feature in many major religions although there are a number of exemptions where adult Muslims do not fast during Ramadan. These include individuals with ill health and long term health conditions such as diabetes and those who are pregnant, elderly or women undergoing menstrual cycles.
Dr Habib Naqvi, NHS Deputy Director Workforce Race Equality Standard, said: “The whole of the UK is continuing to make huge efforts and sacrifices to delay the spread of the coronavirus. As Ramadan and Eid occur during the projected peak of COVID-19, the NHS has issued additional guidance as part of a package of wellbeing support for all NHS people.
“This is another critical period where Muslims, along with other communities, should make use of online platforms and alternative approaches to communicate with family and friends and stick with government guidelines regarding social distancing. The coronavirus restrictions are still very likely to be place by Eid, so the key message remains: stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives.”
Ramadan lasts for 29-30 days and ends with the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr. This year Ramadan is due to start on Thursday 23 or Friday 24 April, depending on the sighting of the new moon; Eid-ul-Fitr is set to end by Sunday 24 May.
The government advice and key facts below should be followed:
COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.
Everyone must stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
This includes people of all ages – even if you do not have any symptoms or other health conditions.
The only reasons you can leave your home:
- to shop for basic essentials – only when you really need to
- to do one form of exercise a day – such as a run, walk or cycle, alone or with other people you live with
- for any medical need – for example, to visit a pharmacy or deliver essential supplies to a vulnerable person
- to travel to and from work – but only where this is absolutely necessary
If you have:
- a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
- a new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedlyyou should stay at home and follow the isolation guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.
Gatherings of more than two people in public – including religious gatherings (except for funerals) – are banned. It is important that you follow this guidance, you could be fined if you do not.
If you are concerned about infection call NHS 111 for advice.
Who is at risk?
Coronavirus can make anyone seriously ill, but there are some people who are at a higher risk.
For example, you may be at high risk from coronavirus if you:
- have had an organ transplant
- are having certain types of cancer treatment
- have blood or bone marrow cancer, such as leukaemia
- have a severe lung condition, such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma
- have a condition that makes you much more likely to get infections
- are taking medicine that weakens your immune system
- are pregnant and have a serious heart condition
If you think you fall into one of these high risk categories and you did not receive a letter from your healthcare team by Sunday 29 March 2020 or been contacted by your GP (doctor), you should discuss your concerns with your GP (doctor) or hospital clinician.
If you don’t have a GP, contact DOTW UK for support: 0808 1647 686 (this is a free number to call) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
How to protect yourself if you’re at high risk
If you’re at high risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus, there are extra things you should do to avoid catching it.
- not leaving your home – you should not go out to do shopping, pick up medicine or exercise
- stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from other people in your home as much as possible
Ask friends, family or neighbours to pick up shopping and medicines for you. They should leave them outside your door.
If you need help getting deliveries of essential supplies like food, you can register to get coronavirus support.
You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day you receive your letter.
Read the full advice on protecting yourself if you’re at high risk from coronavirus on the GOV.UK website.