Ramadan: Can I fast While Experiencing COVID-19 Symptoms?

Ghanaian Moslems have joined their peers around the world in observing Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, which requires that the faithful embark on a 30-day fast for spiritual revival.

Moslems believe the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed during this holy month. Besides abstinence from food and water, Moslems are also asked to abstain from sexual intercourse.

For the second time since the outbreak of COVID-19, they have been forced to alter their approach to the annual fast as safety protocols become the clarion call.

Unlike the Christian faith which encourages fluid intake depending on the type of fast, Moslems fast ‘dry.’

Health experts say COVID-19 patients who decide to fast must do so based on the advice of a medical doctor, as symptoms and treatments may differ from one jurisdiction to the other.

According to health authorities, the majority of COVID-19 infections either do not produce any symptoms or cause flu-like illness, while up to 20% can cause severe or critical illness.

Many of the clinical features (symptoms) including, prolonged illness, headache, loss of taste and smell, and extreme fatigue can all lead to reduced fluid intake and ultimately significant dehydration. The experts say dehydration can cause rapid health deterioration within hours, especially in the second week of contracting the virus, coming with it fever and a respiratory compromise.

A study by the Oxford-based Center for Evidence-based Medicine says there’s no evidence to suggest the probability of adverse effect from fasting during the Covid-19 pandemic on asymptomatic healthy individuals who have previously fasted safely.

The findings however noted that “patients with fever and prolonged illness secondary to Covid-19 can become severely dehydrated and are at risk of sudden acute deterioration. Therefore, these patients should not fast (or cease fasting) and ensure adequate hydration”.

During the fasting, which involves abstention from drinking any fluids during daylight hours dehydration is expected. The Center for Evidence-Based Medicine revealed patients with symptoms due to COVID-19 infection such as fever, loss of taste and fatigue may be at higher risk of dehydration should they decide to fast.

“In Islam, it is very clear about who should fast and who is exempted from fasting, particularly those who are experiencing a particular ailment and I think with the coronavirus symptoms it doesn’t sound like it’s an ailment that is something light,” the Head of Malaysia-based group Sisters in Islam¸ Rozana Isa, says.

“It depends on the immunity of the person. if they[symptoms]are mild and bearable just like normal cough and flu in which there is no danger to your life … carry on your fasts as long as it’s not affecting your physical health,” adds Aiasha Amir, a Pakistani Islamic instructor.

In an interview with Fact-Check Ghana, Spokesperson for the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Aremeyaw Shaibu, said it is very important to observe the protocols although restrictions have been relaxed as compared to last year.

“At institutional mosques, it is very easy to enforce the protocols to the latter, as compared to Central Mosques where the population may be difficult to control. We are encouraging all to continue washing their hands, observing social distance, and more importantly, bring along prayer rugs to prayers,” said Sheik.

The Chief Imam will issue some directives to the Muslim community this week, emphasizing the need to comply with the safety protocols particularly during this season said the spokesperson.

This report is produced under the project: COVID-19 Response in Africa: Together for Reliable Information being implemented with funding support from the European Union.

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