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Fear of Covid surge on Eid’l Fitr

“With Eid’l Fitr bringing momentary respite from hunger, devotees are still hostages of the virus.

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The countdown for the end of the fasting month of Ramadan starts. Hopefully, either 12 May or 13 May depending upon the sighting of the new moon. It’s a guessing game. Again, following a verse in the Holy Koran, there will be the ritual of monitoring the position of the moon. The Darul Ifta’, a special religious agency of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Government (BARMM), has the mandate of officially declaring the exact date of the end of Ramadan and the celebration of the Eid’l Fitr. One could see a collective sigh of relief written on the faces of the devotees. It will be a festive day.

There will be worldwide jubilation. Devotees will bathe and cleanse themselves and wear their prayer raiment, clean clothes for men with subdued color while some will wear the Pakistani tableigh shalwar or the Arab long ankle-length thobe or dishdasha. Women will wear their abaya which will be predominantly white or black.

They will troop to the mosque for the dawn congregation for prayer and sermon and later attend the family or community gathering over food for post-prayer breakfast, greetings and pleasantries. There is a fly in the ointment, however.

The devotees might be carried away by the jubilation that they will momentarily forget the menace of the virus still gripping the world.

They could indulge in pre-Covid practice with abandon. As their usual practice, they might embrace each other after prayer and engage in close-contact talk. Protocols of distancing and use of mask forgotten.

It is in this light that imams who will lead the congregational prayers should make it a part of their sermon strict adherence to restrictions laid down by the government. In fact, there is wisdom in not participating in group prayers. They will not be committing a sin if they skip the congregation, said a fatwa or Islamic edict relating to the pandemic.

If devotion to faith overwhelms one to join the Eid congregation, one should avoid enclosed and jampacked mosques. According to epidemiologists and medical experts, there is less chance of contamination in open air.

I distinctly remember during my stint as Undersecretary of Tourism when a group of student activists visited me in my office.

They asked for a permit to use the Luneta Park open ground for Eid congregational prayer. The park is under the administrative supervision and control of the Department of Tourism-National Parks Development Committee. I facilitated the grant of permit. Since then, Muslims in Metro Manila converged at the Luneta grounds for Eid prayer.

The Muslims should take a leaf from the experience of India. There, religion did them in.

There was a mega surge of infections surpassing 20 million and still counting. Government has relaxed restriction on movement and social distancing protocol during the weeks-long Kumbh Mela religious festival and political campaign rallies.

Now, despite India’s advances in the fight against the pandemic being a producer of vaccines, the figures on death have exponentially increased to a point that they cremate cadavers on fields of bonfires.

There are open-air venues for Eid mass prayers, like the Quezon Memorial Circle ground used by joggers and other social events. In the past, I have attended Eid prayers in this park.
Now, Muslims can go back to their pre-Ramadan life and chores. But, what kind of life was that?
A life of fear, anxiety and the reality that the virus is far from over.

We are flooded with reports about its mutations and variants. The vaccines, which we looked up to as our savior, are not as they were marketed. People inoculated are still getting the virus.

In other words, with Eid’l Fitr bringing momentary respite from hunger, devotees are still hostages of the virus. Their movements are still restricted and will suffer the same inconvenience and fear.

Meantime, they look forward to more speedy and proactive combat by government versus an invisible enemy.

Policymakers should step back to take a second look on their strategies and identify which remedial measure worked out and which need enhancement or recalibration.

The idea of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. to reprioritize areas for vaccinations is in the right direction.

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