DUBAI: Religious authorities in the United Arab Emirates said medical workers treating COVID-19 patients are exempt from fasting during Ramadan and urged Muslims not to congregate for prayers during the holy month expected to start this week.
The Emirates Fatwa Council said in a statement carried on state media late on Sunday that all healthy people are obliged to fast but medical workers on the frontline of the novel coronavirus pandemic need not do so “if they fear that fasting could lead to weakening their immunity or to losing their patients.”
It said Muslims should comply with physical distancing while praying during Ramadan and the Eid Al-Fitr holiday that marks its end. The UAE has suspended prayer in all houses of worship including mosques as part of containment measures.
“Congregating to perform the prayer could endanger lives, an act that is strictly forbidden in Islam,” said the statement.
The UAE, the region’s business hub, has recorded 6,781 infections with 41 deaths. Muslims should comply with physical distancing while praying during Ramadan and the Eid Al-Fitr holiday
Several Gulf Arab states have suspended passenger flights, imposed curfews and closed most public venues. Some Gulf governments are trying to arrange repatriation flights for expatriates who have lost jobs or been put on leave.
UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum announced the launch of a humanitarian campaign on Sunday to provide 10 million meals or food parcels to communities hit by the outbreak in the country.
“Providing food for everyone, with the approach of the holy month of Ramadan, is a social priority in our battle against the pandemic,” he said in an English-language Twitter post.
Elsewhere from the Middle East, Tunisia’s Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh announced that the lockdown will be extended to May 3 before it is progressively eased.
The situation will “soon be mastered,” Fakhfakh declared in a televised interview late Sunday, saying this would allow for a step-by-step reopening of the economy and society.
Tunisia has been under a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew since March 17 and authorities imposed stricter lockdown orders on March 22.
“Up to now we have been successful,” Fakhfakh said. “But we are not yet through” the pandemic, he warned, declaring that “we want to flatten the curve” of the number of infections.
Since the country confirmed its first case of the respiratory disease in early March, Tunisia has declared 38 deaths from the virus among 879 confirmed infections.
With the advent of Ramadan, the curfew will begin two hours later, at 8 p.m.