Dr. Yousef Al Maslamani, Medical Director at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Hamad General Hospital says the COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of daily life and he says it will also mean significant changes to how Ramadan is celebrated. He says it is important that people don’t become complacent in adhering to infection control measures, noting that Ramadan cannot become an excuse for stopping what he calls life-saving practices.
“The Holy month of Ramadan in 2020 will look very different because of the coronavirus pandemic. Our daily routine has changed and inevitably, so will Ramadan. Many of our traditions, including visiting friends and family, eating and praying together, and shopping for celebrations, must look different this year. We must continue doing everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19. By keeping apart, we keep others safe,” said Dr. Al Maslamani.
Dr. Al Maslamani said the days leading up to Ramadan are normally spent planning celebrations, ensuring kitchens are stocked with ingredients for traditional meals, and shopping for special gifts, decorations, and clothing. He says it is perfectly normal for people to feel sad and even angry about missing some of the important events or regular activities that normally happen during Ramadan.
“Ramadan is such a special and sacred time. Many people, young and old, anticipate the arrival of the month all year long and it is normal for people to feel upset about missing out on some of their favorite traditions, whether it be large family parties or attending the mosque for Taraweeh prayers. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that we must all change our day-to-day behaviors and it is essential this continues throughout Ramadan. Following infection control practices, which includes reducing our contact with other people, must remain a priority,” said Dr. Al Maslamani.
“Don’t focus on what you won’t be able to do this year. Instead, look for alternatives. Celebrate Garangao by holding an online photo competition – with the best traditional dress being voted on by friends and family. Organize a virtual Suhoor with members of your family making the same meal and agreeing to go online for a video call at the same time. Ramadan will be different this year, but with a little creativity it is possible to maintain these important traditions while keeping our loved ones safe,” added Dr. Al Maslamani.
Dr. Al Maslamani says a safe and happy Ramadan this year will mean spending more time planning. He says when it comes to grocery shopping, if possible, order online. If you must go to the market in person, he suggests being very thoughtful about what you need and planning meals for two weeks in advance to reduce the number of trips to the grocery store.
“Visiting places where you encounter large groups of people, like grocery stores, not only increases your risk of being in contact with the virus, but it also increases the risk to your loved ones. Limiting face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and since people can spread this virus before they know they are ill you could inadvertently be putting your loved ones at risk. Don’t make unnecessary trips to public places and be very thoughtful about your interactions with other people, particularly those who are at higher risk of getting very sick,” noted Dr. Al Maslamani.
“We cannot stress the importance of physical distancing enough. That means continuing to avoid traditional greetings such as handshaking, kissing, and hugging. We are facing an extraordinary situation and it is important that we act accordingly,” added Dr. Al Maslamani.