WHO issues safety guidelines for Eid al Adha celebrations amid COVID-19

New Delhi (NVI): About 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide are bracing themselves to celebrate Eid al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, amid a coronavirus pandemic that has so far infected more than 17 million people worldwide.

To keep everyone safe in these troubled times of a pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently issued special guidelines for those celebrating this festival from July 30 to August 3.

WHO stresses that “cancelling social and religious gatherings should be seriously considered,” adding that “any decision to restrict, modify, postpone, cancel, or proceed with holding a mass gathering should be based on a standardized risk assessment exercise, taking into account current epidemiological trends, capacities, and resources.”

However, if one is to proceed with social and religious gatherings and animal slaughter, there are a range of measures to be taken, surrounding prayer venues, dealing with livestock, slaughtering of animals and processing and distribution thereof.

Apart from observing social distancing and encouraging mask wearing at the venues, the WHO suggests holding the prayers outdoors, else ensuring that the indoor venue has adequate ventilation. In addition, shorter events with fewer people are encouraged instead of large gatherings.

The authorities are advised to consider measures to facilitate contact tracing in the event that an ill person is identified among the attendees of the event.

The washing facilities at the mosques should be adequately equipped with soap and water, and alcohol-based hand-rub should be provided at the entrance to and inside mosques.

Furthermore, authorities managing the mosques are advised to routinely clean and disinfect worship spaces, sites and buildings, and frequently clean often-touched objects such as doorknobs, light switches, and stair railings with detergents and disinfectant.

In view of the sacrificial slaughter, WHO sternly advise countries to take strict measures around the selling and slaughtering of animals and the distribution of meat while ensuring that national food safety and hygiene regulations are enforced.

The guidelines call for enforcing proper procurement of animals, especially for importation of livestock, and refrain from slaughtering animals that appear sick, and plan for dedicated space for quarantine and isolation of suspected ill animals. Moreover, the WHO strongly discourages slaughter at home.

In addition to this, WHO suggests that when people distribute meat, they should consider physical distancing measures, and it is better to nominate one household member to perform and order the sacrifice, preferably through centralized agencies or services.