As Muslim Healthcare Professionals we have all been worried by the gap between the concerns around #COVID19 and the corresponding actions in our community.
We have put this open letter together to simply and clearly highlight the clinical urgency and seriousness of the situation, on the continuation of congregational activities in Muslim institutions in light of the pandemic.
Some will think the letter is going too far, others will think it does not go far enough – This is why we have chosen the form of words as we have.
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We, the undersigned, are frontline
Muslim health professionals writing to inform our community about the harms of
ongoing congregational activities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,
which continue to have a significant impact on societies across the world.
Today the Prime Minister announced that we all should be taking measures to avoid social contact, and the Chief Scientific Advisor has advised us to avoid gatherings “big or small”.
We seem to be on a similar trajectory as that of Italy which has suffered a dramatic spread of the coronavirus, where in just 3 weeks more than 2,100 Italian lives have been lost so far.
There are genuine fears the impact could be similar, if not worse, here in the UK. Plans are being made for 8 million people to be hospitalised in the UK due to the coronavirus and cases are expected to double every 5-6 days.
Evidence shows that the elderly and
those with conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, immunosuppression
and chronic lung disease are at a higher risk of mortality from the
coronavirus. Those over 80 years of age have an almost 15% chance of dying if
infected with the virus.
We have appraised the situation and
evidence for our community based on what we know about the coronavirus. We have
certain characteristics that place us at higher risk than the general
population. These include:
increased incidence of long-term illnesses such as diabetes and high blood
- an elderly
population that often live with extended family making isolation difficult
community congregations for social events (e.g. weddings) and religious
purposes (e.g. madrassah & mosques)
Alongside this we have specific risk
factors for spreading the virus, which include:
- Densely populated spaces with general lack of adequate ventilation
- Handshaking and hugging amongst congregants
- Prostration on carpets where the virus may remain infectious
- Sharing of ablution facilities
In light of the above, we must emphasise our strong concern that mosques and madrassahs – confined public spaces that fulfil the above criteria – can contribute to significant viral transmission in our populations.
Individuals may have the coronavirus and be contagious without demonstrating any symptoms, for up to 2 weeks.
Measures to advise only those who are unwell or at risk to stay at home are unlikely to be effective, as apparently ‘healthy’ individuals may become infected off each other and transmit the coronavirus back to their families and thus spread it further.
It is also important to highlight that there are simply insufficient hospital beds, particularly in the intensive care units, to handle the anticipated surge in demand.
In Italy doctors have been asked to actively decide who is offered treatment based on patients’ age, medical history and whether they have children. The Chief Medical Adviser has also indicated we are to expect deaths as a result of health service being overwhelmed.
We do not want our community to panic or act rashly, especially in our duty to Allah and His houses of worship, and are aware of the comfort and security our community institutions and mosques offer us in times like these.
But we must stress that it is unsafe and harmful to continue business as usual, or even with significant adjustments that some institutions have made to date.
We recognise this is a decision for scholars, imams and mosques committees to make and we urge them to take steps to mitigate harms.
Our aim and intention is to clearly outline the harm that continuing any congregational activities will have on our communities, especially to our elders and those most vulnerable, even with restrictions in place.
Allah is the Disposer of all our
affairs, the Protector of us all.