Pakistanis advised to mask up at Muharram gatherings amid COVID-19 outbreak

Pakistanis advised to mask up at Muharram gatherings amid COVID-19 outbreak

Mourners wearing masks attend a Muharram procession in Pakistan. — AFP
  • Majalis start across Pakistan as country marks first day of month of Muharram amid COVID surge.
  • Country reports one COVID death overnight, NIH data shows
  • As many as 661 cases detected in last 24 hours, NIH data shows.

With Pakistan logging hundreds of COVID-19 cases everyday, 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.

Gathering and majalis to remember the Shuhada-e-Karbala (martyrs of Karbala) have started as the country observes the first day of the month of Muharram to mark the beginning of the new Islamic year today (Sunday).

Pakistan reported only a single death from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the NIH data showed Sunday morning.

As many as 661 new infections were detected in a single day as the country’s nerve centre in the fight against coronavirus performed diagnostic tests on 20,080 samples across the country.

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, 171 patients suffering from coronavirus 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 the gatherings and majalis during Ashura in a COVID-safe manner, as the risk of another outbreak looms with uptick of the virus across Pakistan.

Following are the 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 the use of disposable tableware; Pre-packaged food ration boxes are preferred.
Congestion Prevention at Food Distribution Points/Branches.
No handshakes or hugs.

Areas of Interest

Some areas that need to be addressed at the federal and federal level are:

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