Practicing Safe Eid-Ul-Adha In COVID-19 Era
Since antiquity, Muslims around the world as part of their faith celebrate Eid-Ul-Adha to commemorate both the devotion of a prophet (namely Ibrahim) and the survival of his son ( Ismael). Eid-Ul-Adha, also called the "Festival of the Sacrifice", is the second of two Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide each year (the other being Eid-Ul-Fitr). It is marked by social and religious gatherings where Muslim families and friends unite to pray together and give alms, especially in the form of sacrificed animal meat - which include (but not limited to) ram, camel, cow, sheep, goat etc. However, given the current Covid-19 virus which occurs as a result of transmission of infection from an animal-to-human, but reached the status of pandemic as a result of human-to-human transmission by secretions of saliva and respiratory droplets, which are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, mixed feelings arises and calls for utmost attention. Although, this celebration is not the first to be celebrated amidst covid-19 pandemic in which countries enforced precautionary measures, Eid-Ul-Adha deserves further attention which should be ensured by countries and individuals involved in the celebration.
"Festival of Sacrifice", also known as Eid-Ul-Adha involves slaughtering and distribution of animal meats, which probes for further attention and adequate regulations, as the science behind "human-to-animal or animal-to-human transmission of diseases" is still under investigation among the scientific community. However, according to WHO, "current evidence suggests that humans infected with SARS-CoV-2 can infect other mammals, including dogs, cats and farmed mink. However, it remains unclear whether or not these infected mammals pose a significant risk for transmission back to humans. Nevertheless, other zoonotic diseases are associated with livestock and have resulted in disease outbreaks". As Eid-Ul- Adha is centrally based on four observances, which include Eid prayers, animal sacrifice, social gatherings and charity, here are ways in which individuals can make informed decisions during the celebration according to the WHO safety guidelines.
Eid Prayers: Advice on Physical Gathering
• Adhere to physical distancing, both when seated and standing, by maintaining created and assigned fixed places, including when praying, performing wudu (ritual ablutions) in communal washing facilities, as well as areas dedicated to shoe storage.
• Hold prayers outdoor if possible, otherwise, ensure that the indoor venue is well ventilated.
• Ensure the use of personal prayer rugs to place over carpets
• Shorten the length of the event as much as possible to limit potential exposure between people.
• Use hand washing facilities (usually equipped with soap and water) and alcohol-based hand rub sanitizers at the entrance to and inside mosques
• Ensure to read visual displays of advice on physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquettes and general messages on COVID-19 prevention provided at worship centers, communal meals or banquets.
• Keep the premises and facilities clean and maintain general hygiene and sanitation.
Social Gatherings: Advice on physical distancing
• Practice physical distancing by strictly maintaining a distance of at least 1 meter between people at all times.
• If physical distancing cannot be achieved, wearing a fabric mask is recommended. However, it is critical to follow best practices on how to wear, remove and dispose of masks, and performing hand hygiene after removal (1).
• Ensure as much as possible to use culturally and religiously sanctioned greetings that avoid physical contact, such as waving, nodding or placing the hand over the heart.
• Avoid as much as possible large number of people gatherings associated with Eid activities such as markets, shops and mosques. However, if its unavoidable, ensure to follow all covid-19 safety guidelines
• Consider gathering with families and friends in far distance with the use of technology - such as zoom meeting- for meetings and greetings in other to mitigate transmission
• 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 suspected cases of COVID-19.
• Urge individuals aged 60 years and above, and anyone with pre-existing medical conditions ( such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease, chronic lung disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, immunosuppression and cancer (2)) not to attend gatherings as they are at higher risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19.
Animal-Human Interface and Sacrificial Slaughter
According to WHO, "the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has not yet been identified. Understanding which animal species are most susceptible to the virus is important in discovering potential animal reservoirs to mitigate transmission and future outbreaks". It is therefore an utmost importance to take common safe practices while handling meats, including slaughtering of animals, selling, and distribution of meats.
• Ensure proper procurement of animals
• Allocate space enough in dedicated enclosures to safely house animals and avoid unsanitary overcrowding in anticipation of the slaughter.
• Do not slaughter animals that appears sick, and plan for dedicated space to isolate suspected ill animal.
• Perform adequate vetenary checks for livestock to mitigate other zoonosis and infection.
• Ensure to slaughter with equipments, and around environments where proper hygienes are kept.
• Practice physical distancing, hand hygiene, proper cough etiquette and adequate use of protective measures while processing the animal. Be aware of COVID-19 signs and symptoms.
• During the distribution of meats, consider taking physical distancing measures and encourage to nominate one household member to perform and order the sacrifice. Avoid crowded gathering associated with distribution of meats, and maintaining physical distancing throughout the whole cycle (i.e collecting, packaging, storing and distribution).
1. World Health Organization. Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19. Interim guidance, 5 June, 2020.
2. World Health Organization. Clinical management of COVID-19. Interim guidance, 27 May, 2020.