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We must not let our guard down during the upcoming religious observances

One year ago, COVID-19 changed our lives and the way we celebrate religious observances and practice our faith. In order to protect ourselves and our loved ones, we found new ways to keep up our traditions and share comfort and hope. Unfortunately, the pandemic is far from over and we must not throw caution to the wind and put ourselves and others at risk. It is more important than ever to observe and celebrate these meaningful events safely- lives and livelihoods depend on it.

COVID-19 is a very real threat and we must stay vigilant in practicing all protective behaviours we know work, for the festive season and beyond – physical distancing and avoiding close contacts at all times, limiting time spent in or avoiding enclosed or crowded places, wearing a face mask, covering coughs and sneezes with your elbow, cleaning hands regularly and staying home if unwell.

Governments are putting different public health and social measures in place to contain the spread of the virus during the holidays, and while religious traditions may look different due to these measures, we can all still keep the spirit of each observance alive by coming together in a way that ensures we all stay healthy.

Marking the occasion online, holding in-person celebrations with household members who already live together and attending gatherings at outdoor venues with extra attention to distancing, if gatherings should proceed, might be how we celebrate this year.

“In this era of social innovation and new technologies, it is easier than ever for us to join together, even when we are apart, and we should take a full advantage of this during the upcoming holidays,” said Dr Ying-Ru Lo, WHO Representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore.

To help people celebrate religious observances safely, WHO has published advice for the public, complemented by tip sheets for faith leaders on how to maintain religious practices during COVID-19, guidance on religious events that involve mass gatherings, and a series of posters and social media tiles related to safe practices during Ramadan, Wesak and other major religious events.

We hope that moving forward, we can continue celebrating our holidays in more traditional ways, and the new COVID-19 vaccines will play a key role in accomplishing this. We urge people to get vaccinated based on their country vaccination schedule even during holidays. It is important to note that for those celebrating Ramadan, the COVID-19 vaccines and ingredients are in keeping with previous religious edicts and vaccination does not invalidate the practice of daily fasting. It’s very encouraging to see vaccines against COVID-19 starting to reach high-priority groups, but until vaccines reach everyone, we must all continue with protective behaviours when travelling, worshiping, celebrating or going about our daily life.

“We encourage people to continue listening to their health authorities and adhere to local guidance as individual and community behaviours are still the most powerful weapon against the pandemic and this is a responsibility that falls on all of us,” added Dr Lo. 

Notes for editors:

Links to WHO advice and guidance on COVID-19 prevention during religious and cultural celebrations can be found
here and guidance on safe Ramadan practices in the context of COVID-19