Eid-ul-Adha, a religious festival celebrated by Muslims, to commemorate and remember the supreme and honest sacrifice offered by Prophet Abraham (AS) in the form of his son, Prophet Ismael (AS), to please Allah. Eid is celebrated with fervour and joy by Muslims all over the world. Social and religious gatherings and animal slaughter are central to Eid al Adha. However, celebration of this festival during the COVID-19 pandemic is quite exigent and challenging amid alarming resurgence of positive cases in Kashmir. In the Muslim countries, the animal sacrifice during the festival will be restricted and confined to the limited places to avoid large gatherings in current pandemic. The change of pattern from the usual celebration of Eid would be witnessed this year; there would be less transport of animals for sale from rural to urban areas, no advanced purchase of animals, no hustle and jostle of freelance and non-professional butchers, no slaughtering of animals in public areas, no gathering of spectators around the butcher, and no in-house social gatherings. Since celebration of the festival cannot be cancelled due to religious obligations, the routine will be affected, and we ned to celebrate it with prudence. All have to remain conscientious and meticulous to offer animal sacrifice in such a way that would not lead to any spike.
Jammu and Kashmir is experiencing unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases which are mostly confined to the urban areas. The population here is a mix of urban and rural, so the people here would migrate from here and there during Eid which needs to be avoided in the present circumstances. The sacrificial meat which needs to be distributed among the relatives ought not to be offered to relatives living at long distances and; it can be offered to selective relatives and neighbours to maintain distance. In case the populace does not follow advisory and if widespread rural-urban-rural migratory activities continue, the situation may further worsen in Kashmir, particularly by facilitating the disease transmission to COVID-19 free regions. Keeping in view the low literacy rate in rural population, the containment of COVID-19 would be a great challenge for the health authorities and may result in a sharp rise in cases. The other challenge during this festive will be the congesting around animal sacrifice spot which could serve as potential source of disease spread. Since the government has allowed limited livestock markets on the outskirts of the cities, the people may rush to the places where animals will be available and thus may result in congestions and crowds. Moreover, we as a community fail in compliance to the safety and health protocols and there is a potential threat also on account of the low literacy among the animal handlers. These factors may facilitate the human to human disease transmission and subsequent spill over to different areas. Moreover, due to the limited healthcare facilities especially in rural areas, implementation of preventive measures would be difficult or even impossible to persuade.
We have a responsibility to know that Eid-ul-Adha poses logistic challenges, and requires effective planning to avoid any possible catastrophe. Keeping in view the high risk of disease spread during the festive occasion, we require taking all measures to avoid any possible surge in COVID-19 cases.
Virtual Mode of Communication
The potential risks of COVID-19 spread during Eid-ul-Adha must be communicated to the public in timely and effective manners through electronic media in-order to create a sense of responsibility. Eid greetings should be shared on virtual platforms such as television, radio, digital and social media instead of visiting neighbours and relatives in person.
Online Purchase of meats
Online purchase will be an effective approach during the current health crisis. People should choose animals online so that they are delivered at their doorsteps. Encouraging people for this practice will help in reducing the crowds in the cattle markets, thereby facilitating the movement control measures. The authorities have the role to monitor problematic cattle markets that emerge inside cities and towns. Moreover, the principles of social distancing must be ensured during the purchase.
Family members directly involved with sacrifice
In-house slaughtering of animals by non-professional butchers is a common practice in our society for keeping expediency and convenience, which as matter of fact cannot be avoided and therefore, the family members need to keep distance from the outsiders who manage their sacrifice. Old age people, children, and people with pre-existing medical condition should stay away from the place of sacrifice and maintain distance from other members involved directly in distribution and procurement of sacrificial meat.
Animal Merchants and Butchers
Animal merchants and butchers must undergo self-quarantine for at least fourteen days before going back to their hometowns and avoid mixing with family members. The provision of sufficient space for animals, availability of face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers should be made mandatory for people directly involved in animal sacrifice.
Meat distribution and other Charity works
Proper care should be taken while packing, storing, collecting and distributing meat. Separate containers should be used to store meat in freezers. Since the source of virus is still unknown, ensure proper cooking of meat, avoid eating raw meat. If possible hire an agency that can sacrifice the animal and distribute meat on your behalf.
Proper cleaning and sanitization of place of sacrifice should be done. Ensure proper disposal of all waste material. Sanitise all equipment involved, and maintain proper cataloguing of tools involved in the sacrifice. Moreover, post-festival surveillance programs need to be put in place for timely detection of discrepancy in the pattern of occurrence of cases.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, health authorities must remain on a high alert and take special measures during the festival. The government must refocus and redeploy their energies, and be responsive and quick for any post-Eid spike in covid positive cases.
Dr. Farooq Ahmad Peer is Director Academics, JKBOSE.
Mohsina Irshad is a KAS Officer, 2019 Batch