Strict adherence to mask-wearing advised at Muharram gatherings amid rise in COVID-19 cases

The National Institute of Health, Islamabad (NIH) has advised strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs), including mask wearing and social distancing during Muharram gatherings, as Pakistan continues to remain under the grip of COVID-19.

Gatherings and majalis to remember the Shuhada-e-Karbala (martyrs of Karbala) started across the country after Pakistan sighted the Muharram moon, marking the beginning of the new Islamic year today (Sunday).

In the last 24 hours, 661 new cases of coronavirus were reported when diagnostic tests were done on 20,080 samples, NIH data showed Sunday morning.

The new cases pushed the coronavirus positivity rate in Pakistan to 3.29% and the number of total COVID-19 cases to 1,553,386.

Meanwhile, the country reported only a single death from COVID-19 overnight, NIH said.

The data showed that among COVID-19 patients, 171 are being treated in critical care units at different medical facilities across the country.

 

What are the SOPs for Muharram?

NIH has restricted the elderly and children from attending gatherings and majalis during Ashura, as the risk of another outbreak looms with the uptick of cases across Pakistan.

 

The following are guidelines for holding gatherings and processions:

COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures i.e mask wearing, social distancing and use of sanitizers/ hand washing should be adhered to
Organising committees should make arrangements for all SOPs
Zakirs and participants should be vaccinated against COVID-19
Venue for conduct of Majalis should be open and spacious with proper
ventilation arrangements
Wearing of masks and maintenance of social distancing is mandatory during majalis and Processions. Availability of masks and sanitizers/ hand washes
Controlled participation according to capacity of venues and avoidance of overcrowding
Duration of majalis and processions should be curtailed
Majalis where SOPs cannot be effectively implemented such as
homes and private gatherings should be discouraged
Elderly above 65 years, children and co-morbid may be sensitized to
attend Majalis at home through live streaming
Proper arrangements for cleaning venues with chlorine before and after the events
Display of COVID-19 SOPs and precautions at prominent places
SOPs compliance by employing volunteer scouts

Miscellaneous aspects

 

Arrangements for food and drinks in spacious and ventilated place
Emphasis on use of disposable utensils; preference on pre-packaged boxes for distribution of food
Avoiding overcrowding at food distribution points/locations
No handshake and embracing

Areas of focus

 

Some of the aspects meriting necessary actions at the federal and federating units level, include following:

Messaging by religious clerics for uniform implementation of SOPs /guidelines proposed by NCOC
Strict enforcement of SOPs by civil administration

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