Ramadan is a time of joy, gratitude, and celebration. This year, we finally have the opportunity to be together with our friends and family, making the holiday that much more meaningful.
Prior to the pandemic, it was no problem to meet regularly with our families and friends, and to follow our traditions and the daily routines indelibly woven into the fabric our lives.
We may have even taken these customs for granted before the onset of the pandemic. Now, as the country is reopening in a carefully calibrated manner, we are able to return to these practices and appreciate them anew.
But we must do this carefully, continuing to protect ourselves and those around us, even during this festive time.
Public health restrictions are gradually being lifted and people will once again be traveling, whether out of state or outside of Malaysia, attending religious events and spending time with loved ones.
As much as this brings hope and happiness to us all after two years of distance, remote celebrations, and the truly extraordinary efforts we have taken to stay healthy, we must be mindful that Covid-19 still poses a very real threat.
Too many people are still getting sick with the virus, and unfortunately, not all of them recover.
This Ramadan, let’s celebrate, but be smart about it. There are many things you can do prior to and during the holiday to reduce your risk of contracting Covid-19 or exposing others to it.
If you plan to travel, be proactive about ways you can keep yourself protected while on the road or in the skies and be vigilant for signs and symptoms of the virus.
Follow all recommendations by the local health authorities, and additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also issued travel advice to help you navigate your trip safely.
If you attend an event but you see that you cannot maintain a safe distance from others or that the space is too confined or without fresh air, consider leaving.
Wear a well-fitted mask when indoors or in crowded places. When meeting up with your friends or family, try to congregate outdoors whenever possible.
If you are hosting people, verify that everyone is vaccinated or tests negative before attending – it is not impolite to discuss vaccination status with your guests. For more practical tips on how to stay safe during Ramadan, visit the WHO website.
While this is a time to enjoy, it is also a time to ensure that we protect the most vulnerable in our communities. This is especially true if you will be around the elderly. The best way we can protect them and ourselves is by getting a booster shot.
If spending time with multiple people or households, self-test beforehand. And of course, if you feel unwell at all, with even the mildest of symptoms, do the responsible thing, isolate, and stay at home so that the only thing you share with others this holiday is good spirit.
Holiday festivities without these measures will inevitably lead to increased numbers of Covid-19 cases, overwhelmed health systems and eventually, more deaths that could have been prevented.
If we want to move forward, we must develop an intuitive, even habitual sense of using important protective behaviours based on relative risk and managing Covid-19 in a sustained way. This means we test, treat and isolate, we immunize, boost, and do what we know works against the virus.
We hear endemic and many other words and phrases used to describe our future with Covid-19, but it is not important what we call this next phase of the pandemic.
Rather, it is how we respond as communities and individuals as we all have our part to play. During Ramadan, you can join the Ministry of Health and WHO and sign up to become a champion against Covid-19.
Your individual actions can have a collective impact, not just in helping others to celebrate Ramadan safely but to find creative solutions within your local community to combat Covid-19.
May all your prayers be answered this Ramadan and may you stay healthy and protected from Covid-19.
Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe is the WHO Representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.