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Wednesday Apr 22 2020
Web Desk

Top Pakistani doctors warn of 'fatal consequences' as government eases prayer restrictions in Ramazan

Web Desk
Muslims maintain safe distance as they attend Friday prayer after government limited congregational prayers and ordered to stay home, in efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Lahore, Pakistan April 10, 2020. REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Top Pakistani doctors on Tuesday warned the government that allowing congregational prayers in larger numbers will have fatal outcomes amid a rising number of COVID-19 patients in the country.

In a statement, they requested the authorities and the business community to practice patience and keep the markets and non-essential shops closed, allowing home deliveries only.

These recommendations were made by Dr Khurum Khan, (London), Dr Fareed Shah (Madina), Dr Mughees (Makka), Dr Muhammad Razi (Mirpur Khas), Dr Abdul Bari Khan (Karachi), Dr Faisal Mahmood (Karachi), Dr Shamvil Ashraf (Karachi), Dr Saad Niaz (Karachi), Dr Abdul Basit (Karachi), Dr Hanif Chatni (Karachi), Dr Zahid Jamal (Karachi), Dr Yahya Chawla (Karachi), and Dr Raza Sayyed (Karachi).

Read also: PM Imran says govt will 'take action' if safety precautions are not followed in mosques

They also advised the government against adopting a softer stance on day to day activities, as the coronavirus will not distinguish between people based on the nature of activities.

They appealed to the government to review the recent decision on the mosques and take a step back to the previous position of only allowing up to 5 namazis in the mosques, as this was in the best interest of Islam, Pakistan, respected Islamic scholars and the general public.

Last week, President Arif Alvi had announced a 20-point agreement reached with the religious leaders about congregational prayers in Ramazan.

The doctors said the ongoing situation in the wake of an outbreak of COVID-19 in Pakistan was unprecedented not just for the people of Pakistan, but for the whole of humanity. The statement said doctors were at the helm of dealing with patients suffering from coronavirus, which could rapidly transform from a mild illness to a fatal disease.

The statement welcomed the agreement between the government and the ulema council based on relatively robust principles; however, it expressed strong reservations based on the following observations.

1) Our mosques are predominantly filled by people above the age of 50! Quite a few videos in last 48 hours have surfaced demonstrating that more than 80% of the people attending prayers were indeed above the age of 50, in fact mostly in their 60s, and 70s.

2) This observation was rather expected, as for people who showed commitment and perseverance in offering prayers all their lives, it would be difficult to stop from offering prayers when the mosques have reopened.

3) This has resulted in a violation of the first and foremost principle of preventing the spread of the virus in the most vulnerable group.

4) With Ramazan approaching, we would understandably expect a higher number of namazis attending the prayers. Moreover, long Taraweeh prayers and waiting times will lead to prolonged gatherings. It is all but certain that this will cause significant mayhem, as the mosques practising social distancing will only be able to accommodate 20-25% of the regular namazis, which will further worsen the situation.

5) Consequently, we won’t be surprised if issues other than the spread of the virus will also become prevalent around the territories of our mosques, most prominently the conflicts between worshipers, mosques management and law enforcement agencies. This has also been recently observed in a few areas.

6) Our local hospitals in Karachi have started experiencing a significant influx of corona positive patients. We anticipate these numbers and resultant mortality to expand exponentially in the next few days.

7) This will undeniably result in significant pressure on our already compromised health system.

8) Increased exposure to the virus increases the likelihood of getting infected as well as an increased likelihood of complications and death. We fear that allowing congregational prayers in larger number in our mosques may contribute to such fatal outcomes.

9) Eventually, all these issues are not just likely to cause jeopardy to the reputation of Islam and that of our Ulema-e-karam but it will lead to unwanted loss of lives of us and our fellow brothers.

10) Finally, whilst we are prepared to be amongst the martyrs by saving human lives, it’s worth noting that we fear if healthcare professionals die to the tone of the rest of the world, there won’t be many resources including manpower to look after our patients.