Health Ministry weighs options to prevent COVID-19 spread during Ramadan

The month of Ramadan begins on April 23, giving officials just over a week to decide on a comprehensive set of policies and communicate them to Arab communities in Israel.

Muslim women stand as they pray after eating their iftar (breaking fast) meal during the holy month of Ramadan (photo credit: REUTERS/ADNAN ABIDI)
Muslim women stand as they pray after eating their iftar (breaking fast) meal during the holy month of Ramadan
(photo credit: REUTERS/ADNAN ABIDI)
The Health Ministry is currently weighing various options to curb the spread of coronavirus in Israel’s Arab communities ahead of the month of Ramadan, Ynet reported on Wednesday.
The concern is that as families attend the large evening meals that break the daily fast coronavirus might spread within the Muslim population and beyond. The report follows the recent decision to place four Arab-Israeli villages in the north of the country under lockdown following an outbreak of the virus. 
The month of Ramadan begins on April 23, giving officials just over a week to decide on a comprehensive set of policies and communicate them to Arab communities in Israel. 
The ministry stated that the coronavirus instructions for Ramadan “will not resemble the Passover instructions” given to Jewish people. The difference in policy is due to the fact that Ramadan is four times longer than Passover, involves daytime fasting and people observing the holiday often take walks to greet friends and neighbors. 
Decision makers are also aiming to reduce possible clashes between security forces and Arab communities, after riots erupted in  Jaffa when a person was arrested by police after violating  coronavirus orders. 
One concern is the Arab community in Jerusalem. To reduce possible hostility in some Muslim sections of the city, IDF soldiers do not deliver food packages in uniform, as they usually do, but place them in delivery centers where they are picked up by local volunteers who distribute them to refugee camps and neighborhoods that are over the green line.
 One idea that is currently being suggested to the national Coronavirus Task Force is to avoid using IDF soldiers, who are currently busy offering help at elderly people’s homes.
The national Coronavirus Task Force is also examining communications options that will ensure that instructions are widely and accurately disseminated.
Head of the Interior Ministry’s committee to combat coronavirus among the Arab community Ayman Sayaf warned that he sees a relaxation among Arab-Israelis in the last few days and that “as Ramadan comes near we want to increase the level of compliance with the instructions.” 
He added that not only will special centers be opened in the north to house coronavirus patients, some centers will only serve women. However, it was stressed that only people who agree to going to one of the centers will stay there
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri is tasked with handling the coronavirus epidemic among both haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jews and Arab-Israelis. The ministry already delivered funds to Arab municipalities to ensure they can maintain services during a massive outbreak. 
The month of Ramadan (intense heat in Arabic) is one of the five pillars of Islam and is composed of daytime fasting and evening festivities. The month marks the beginning of the Quranic revelation to Muhammad, the founder of Islam.