Second Ramadan In Pandemic: How have things changed?

It has been a year since the Coronavirus came into existence and altered our lives in more ways than we have ever expected and in manners that we could have never predicted. And although another journey around the sun has come to pass, it feels like yesterday when we stressed out about getting through Ramadan in quranatine. Much uncertainty was felt then through the inability to attend prayers in the Masjids, hold family gatherings for Iftar, shop in our favourite bazaars, or even celebrate Eid together. Yet, time passes and in the blink of an eye, we are a month away from welcoming our second Ramadan and not to our expectations, it’s still in the midst of the global pandemic.  

So what’s new this Ramadan?

Vaccination

Many efforts for the production of a vaccine for the virus were instigated since early last year in various countries and by a variety of experts and institutions leading to a number of clinical trials worldwide. As of December 2020, 3 vaccines are now available and approved in limited capacity and across a few countries around the world based on set criteria and regulations. These vaccines include the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine which are given in two doses one month apart and show an above 90% efficacy rate at preventing lab-confirmed cases. There is also the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen’s vaccine that shows an efficacy rate of 66.3% and whose recipients are given 1 dose only. 

The vaccines are available to the public through registration with priority given to senior citizens and those vulnerable with pre-existing clinical conditions. The manner in which the vaccine is administered is through a shot in the muscle of the upper arm and it will remain available throughout the month of Ramdan this year as well. 

A concern that may be raised by Muslims globally is whether it would be safe to take the vaccine during the fasting month and whether the shot would invalidate the fast. As of now, several statements have already been made by a number of experts stating that there are no issues with receiving either doses of the vaccine while fasting as there are no additional repercussions on health that differ from the ones considered when not fasting. With regards to the permissibility of taking the shot, the content within it is said to be halal and it is agreed by scholars that it would not invalidate the person’s fast as it does not contain any nutritious value and injections for non-nutritional purposes are permissible to take while fasting in Islam.

Time Management and Communication

Since the announcement of the virus and the first quarantine, people have taken to adjusting their daily routines and activities in accordance with the new lifestyle. Zoom and Skype calls are now an essential part of the day, playing an important role in keeping jobs and studies running while maintaining social distance. Now, preparations are already set in motion for workflow by companies, and education facilities and the added bonus for this Ramadan is that Islamic lectures and lessons have also been integrated into online platforms and made available for users to still get knowledge and a community feel next month despite the current conditions.

SOPs and Preventive Measures

Between the masks worn in public, spaces kept between people in commercial and public institutions, and the hand sanitizers placed everywhere, it’s safe to say that a lot of precautions have been adopted since last Ramadan. As opposed to the panic experienced by Ramadan shoppers last year, this year, the community is better prepared with multiple protection measures as well as a variety of online platforms that offer multiple services for daily necessities including grocery shopping and delivery alternatives that are increasingly being adopted by several entities.

Quarantine and Lockdown Regulations

A lot has changed with regards to quarantine, lockdown, and travel regulations in the past year with fluctuation in its implementations and lifting according to the rise and drop in cases in different countries. One thing that is seen worldwide is the lift of some travel bans and restrictions with the administration of mandatory Covid testing and the implementation of a 14 days of quarantine period upon arrival at the required destination. 

A possible new instrument to be employed this year is the Vaccine Passport which is a form of documentation or digital record that includes coronavirus test results and a proof of vaccination. This is expected to assist the public in regaining the freedom to travel and access public spaces including restaurants, educational institutions, work spaces without having to undergo temperature checks or recurring testing. 

Fresher and Hopeful Mindsets

Although it does not seem like this Ramadan would be much different from that of last year, it is definitely better prepared for this time around. Hospitals now are more equipped and better acquainted with symptoms and treatments and with the new vaccine, there is definitely more hope than despair. People have also evidently had time to accept the changes in life functions and adapt to the new lifestyle. Mindsets and emotional states have also relatively become improved with people now getting gradually more familiar with the virus and becoming less panicked and afraid as they previously were before. 

Conclusion

Whether next month will be spent in quarantine or not, one thing to consider is that Ramadan for Muslims is a personal journey as much as a collective experience. The fundamental objectives behind Ramadan could still be achieved despite the circumstances. Activities including fasting, performing Salah, giving charity, reciting the Quran, abstaining from poor behaviour, ect could all be done from the comfort of the home and now with lesser distractions. This Ramadan could be an opportunity to maximize efforts towards refreshing our mindsets and goals, adjusting our spirit, disposing of harmful habits, and adopting beneficial ones. 

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