By Farah Latif (Ph.D. Candidate)
The world is in a state of a crisis caused by the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected more than one million people and continues to spread in many parts of the world. In the uncertainty filled times, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V’s (aba) has guided Ahmadis to maintain our physical and spiritual hygiene through supplication to Allah Tallah and wudhu so Allah may have mercy on us. Hazoor (aba) has also set an example through his actions for all Ahmadis that they should follow the rules and restrictions imposed by the local authorities in reducing the risk of COVID-19.
Experts agree that even the best well-equipped healthcare systems are not prepared for the devastation of human life that is caused by COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, it is a duty of all Ahmadis to act as responsible citizens in our own communities to reduce the spread of the pandemic.
Before we can discuss the responsible behavior that we must adopt during this pandemic, let us examine the community impact of COVID-19 and why it should be taken seriously.
The coronavirus has caused flu-like diseases such as SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012; and COVID-19 is its newest strand. In severe cases, coronavirus diseases cause an infection in a person’s lungs, making it difficult for them to breathe oxygen in the body and medical interventions, such as intubation to artificially help a person breathe through a ventilator, becomes necessary. But COVID-19 is more contagious than other coronavirus diseases, especially in people with a weak immune system because of old age or other illnesses. As a result, more people are being infected, requiring medical interventions. The increase in patients makes it difficult for the healthcare systems to properly care for these patients, and more people end up dying of the disease. Also, COVID-19 has a longer incubation period in a person’s body than other similar diseases. For example, the incubation period for SARS is two to seven days, whereas for COVID-19, it is about 14 days. This means people may not know that they are sick for two weeks as they spread the disease to others. So, it becomes very important that people should adopt public behavior that assumes that they are carriers of COVID-19 disease and avoid activities that spread it.
The severity of the symptoms of COVID-19, it’s contagious nature, and the inability of healthcare systems to take care of an overwhelmingly large volume of patients needing help at the same time, make it a very serious and potentially deadly disease.
There is little certainty about the origin and containment of COVID-19; although, experts agree that COVID-19 is spread from one person to another from droplets that the infected persons emit from their mouth and nose during regular conversations or sneezing. According to the World Health Organization, the following are true.
- There is no medical cure or a vaccine against catching COVID-19 by a person. Scientific research takes time, so experts agree that a vaccine is at least 12 to 18 months away from becoming available for public consumption.
- Heat and sunlight do not prevent one from catching COVID-19. Similarly, cold and snow will not prevent a person from getting the disease.
- There are no known supplements or foods that can prevent or cure COVID-19.
- COVID-19 can be serious and even fatal in people of any age.
- One can be infected but may not have any significant symptoms.
Keeping these facts in mind, the best practice to reduce community spread of COVID-19 is to consider ourselves carriers the disease and act in ways that will prevent the possibility of spreading the disease to others. This means practicing strict social distancing measures, covering our sneezes in the elbow, wearing a mask in public, and washing hands frequently to prevent spreading our respiratory droplets to others.
Also, we must consider the following social responsibilities.
- Continue to follow the example of Hazoor (aba) about restricting Islamic rituals and Jumaat activities such as Jumma and meetings until the local authorities allow reconvening.
- For medical advice, only follow the advice of trusted sources such as the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States and the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. Ahmadis in other parts of the world can follow the guidelines recommended by World Health Organization (WHO) for their communities.
- Continue to exercise and maintain healthy practices such as consuming balanced meals.
- The consumption of foods recommended in the Holy Quran and Hadith should not be considered a substitute for taking caution.
- Inform children, the elderly, and those who are not informed about COVID-19 and help them understand their level of threat from the disease and their role in spreading the disease.
- Do not share or follow the advice of non-experts, no matter how reliable they may be in other circumstances.
- Do not share social media posts that mock, undermine, or make fun of the disease.
- Do not share, mock, or engage with conspiracy theories on social media or otherwise. Also, do not share panic-stricken information on social media such as pictures of empty store shelves.
- Do not hoard food and essentials. Leave items at the store for others who must buy small quantities due to smaller budgets.
- Do not waste food, water, and other resources.
- Every community is facing a different level of threat, so it is essential to understand the recommendations that are provided by the local authorities. For example, see the chart below to understand each type of recommendation.
Figure 1. Understanding Recommendations from Authorities
The situations during pandemics evolve frequently so it is important for us to rely on credible sources to stay informed and follow new recommendations if they change. Allah Tallah guides us in the Holy Quran: “Who listen to the Word and follow the best thereof. It is they whom Allah has guided, and it is they who are men of understanding.” (Sura Az-Zumaar, Ayat 19). May Allah make us those who listen and follow, and make us among the guided ones. Ameen.
 Farah Latif is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication, George Mason University. She serves as a research fellow at the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA). Farah’s research areas include crises communication, health risk communication, digital misinformation, and reputation management.