Coronavirus: As Ramadan begins, Arab sector urged to keep guidelines

Could the holiday lead to a new rise in infections?

Palestinians buy vegetables and fruits at a shop during the holy month of Ramadan, in the West Bank city of Hebron,  May 16, 2019.  (photo credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)
Palestinians buy vegetables and fruits at a shop during the holy month of Ramadan, in the West Bank city of Hebron, May 16, 2019.
(photo credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)
 As the Muslim festival of Ramadan begins, it is important to work on increasing the vaccination rate in the Arab sector and to encourage worshippers to follow regulations concerning gatherings, Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, director of Ben-Gurion University’s School of Public Health, told The Jerusalem Post.
Ramadan, the holiest month of the year in the Muslim calendar, begins on Tuesday evening. For 30 days, those who observe it fast from dawn to sunset, and devote more time to prayers and reflections. Traditionally more people attend prayers at mosque and families come together for the holiday meals when the fast is broken every day.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, last year mosques in Israel were closed during Ramadan, and people could celebrate only with their nuclear families.
“Compared to last year, we are in a much better situation but I think that several important steps should be encouraged,” Davidovitch explained. “First of all, it is important to increase the vaccination rate among the Arab population, especially among those who are over 50 years old.”
According to a Monday report by the Health Ministry, the vaccination rate of people over 50 in the Arab sector stands at 74% (including those who have recovered and those who have received the first dose), compared to 92% of the general population. Considering all ages, the rate stands at 51% in the Arab sector and at 65% in the general population.
“The situation needs to improve especially in the Bedouin community,” Davidovitch said.
The expert highlighted that also wearing masks, maintain social distance and the proper hygiene measures are going to be important.
“It is also important that authorities work with religious leaders,” he added. “It is important to understand that the pandemic is almost over but not over yet.”
Indeed, health authorities have been working with Muslim leaders to encourage communities to follow the regulations.
“During the weeks before Ramadan, we held meetings with Muslim clerics, heads of local authorities, and businessmen from the Arab society, in order to listen to their proposals, update them on existing guidelines, and support them in circulating the information among the Arab society,” a spokesperson for the Health Ministry told the Post.
Moreover, the ministry prepared a guidebook for Ramadan, offering all the information explaining which rules apply.
Only 137 new cases were identified in Israel on Sunday with 0.4% of the 38,000 tests performed returning a positive result. The numbers are in line with those of the previous day and show how the disease in Israel keeps on receding, as the R rate that remains below 0.8 – at 0.74 – testifies.
There are currently less than 3,500 active cases in Israel, down from tens of thousands.
The number of patients in serious condition also continued to drop. As of Monday, there were some 253 patients in serious conditions, down from 317 the previous week and 441 on the Monday before that. At the peak of the pandemic in January, they were 1,200.
“This is the time when doing contact tracing and breaking transmission chains is becoming really crucial, as well as monitoring those who are positive, also to track variants,” Davidovitch concluded.