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The UK’s state-funded National Health Service (NHS) has issued additional guidance as a reminder for British Muslims to stay away from social gatherings during the holy month of Ramzan in view of the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

As the social distancing measures remain in place to help curb the spread of COVID-19, the NHS said managers and staff working in hospitals and healthcare settings have also been issued advice to cover adjustments over working hours and fasting arrangements for Muslim colleagues.

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Ramzan is the holiest month in Islam, when devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. It is expected to begin this week, depending on the sighting of the moon.

The government on Wednesday said that 759 more people with the coronavirus have died in the country’s hospitals, taking the total toll to 18,100. T

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The UK’s death toll due to the coronavirus is the fourth highest in Europe, behind Italy, Spain and France, all of whom have reported over 20,000 deaths.

The whole of the UK is continuing to make huge efforts and sacrifices to delay the spread of the coronavirus. As Ramzan and Eid occur during the projected peak of COVID-19, the NHS has issued additional guidance as part of a package of wellbeing support for all NHS people, said Dr Habib Naqvi, NHS Deputy Director Workforce Race Equality Standard.

This is another critical period when Muslims, along with other communities, should make use of online platforms and alternative approaches to communicate with family and friends and stick with government guidelines regarding social distancing. The coronavirus restrictions are still very likely to be in place by Eid, so the key message remains: stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives,” he said.

The NHS has a diverse workforce, with an estimated 3.3 per cent of the 1.4 million NHS workers being from a Muslim background.

Fasting plays an important central feature in many major religions although there are a number of exemptions where adult Muslims do not fast during Ramzan. These include individuals with ill health and long-term health conditions such as diabetes and those who are pregnant, elderly or women undergoing menstrual cycles, the NHS advice notes.

Under the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, everyone must stay at home to help stop the spread of the deadly virus. This includes people of all ages even if someone has no symptoms or other health conditions.

The only reasons allowed to leave your home is to shop for basic essentials only when really needed; to do one form of exercise a day such as a run, walk or cycle, alone or with other people you live with; for any medical need for example, to visit a pharmacy or deliver essential supplies to a vulnerable person; and to travel to and from work but only where this is absolutely necessary.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the UK’s largest Muslim umbrella body with over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organizations, mosques, charities, and schools, has also issued a set of guidelines for the holy month in the lockdown period, in place at least until May 7 before it is reviewed.

Ramzan is usually a time for Muslims to gather with friends and family and in mosques to break the fast and pray together. The MCB’s guidance advises ways in which Muslims across the UK can still make the most of Ramadan from home socially and spiritually, the MCB said.

Its guidance includes advice on hosting and attending virtual iftars (meal at the end of fasting) to tuning in to their local mosque’s livestreamed services.

Many mosques across the UK have been ramping up their online presence, already offering daily sermons or prayers sessions, with Imams working to continue to engage with their communities and help keep up morale during these trying times.

The message for this Ramzan is clear: fast and pray at home and share Ramzan digitally. This is the way to help save lives, said MCB Secretary General Harun Khan.

Ramzan is about connecting to God through worship, reflection, compassion and giving back to others. It is important to use this time to reconsider, to reflect on the way we live our lives and the way we relate to our creator, our communities and those in need. We must be sure to celebrate Ramzan in the safest way possible: in our homes, he said.

The MCB is also encouraging all Muslims to use the holy month of Ramzan to give back to their communities, both in the way of financial donations to their local mosques if they can afford it and getting involved in local initiatives if it is safe to do so.

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