COVID-19: Global Health Situation
Most of us could not have expected what has happened globally over the past couple of months. With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, we are facing a new set of challenges, as a community and as individuals. The virus has had a significant impact on our lives as businesspeople, employees, students, family members, volunteers and society as a whole. Last week, the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and globally, the number of cases are increasing exponentially. Unlike SARS, it is predicted by medical experts that COVID-19 may last till the end of this year or even longer.
We could not have imagined that we would be in a position where, responding to local government guidelines and the rapid spread of the virus in some of our cities in the Far East, we would need to suspend services in most of our Centres. Let me assure you that this was not an easy decision for leadership at all – it was implemented with an extremely heavy heart, but purely for the safety of our community. Thank you for all the cooperation and support that you have provided us during this suspension. This has been especially taxing on local M/K so we are extremely thankful for all their help and support.
Our institutions have had to respond extremely quickly to the evolving situation created by COVID-19. Since January 2020, we have implemented numerous measures:
- Assembled a Far East COVID-19 Task Force that is monitoring the situation daily, if not hourly. Your safety is our utmost priority;
- Regular dialogue and calls with national and local leadership to understand on-the-ground developments and global trends;
- Postponed non-essential gatherings;
- Stringent hygiene and safety measures implemented;
- Introduced contact tracing for travellers attending Centres;
- Alternate teaching methods, including long distance learning, for the young;
- Regular readouts, posters and electronic messages to keep you abreast of developments and provide advice;
- Circulating frequently asked questions about the virus and directing you to credible sources of information.
We will continue to update and guide you as best as we can over the next several weeks and months.
In some of the Far East countries, we have been lucky that the virus has been relatively contained. Some governments have been encouraging us to carry on with our daily lives. While it is not ideal that we shut ourselves out from the rest of the world, we strongly recommend that you please:
- Abide by “social distancing” measures in all aspects of your lives;
- Practice good hygiene;
- Stay home if you are unwell;
- Completely avoid travel and limit social gatherings;
- Request senior members of your families to avoid any external engagements;
- Avoid spreading mis-information via social media, online or by forwarding messages - reach out to leadership if you require any form of clarification or assistance to differentiate between real and fake news;
- Do not engage in panic buying of household goods.
Let us all try to do our part – to be socially responsible, take every precaution necessary and to contribute to the global containment of the virus. Members of our community have been very good at remaining in touch with each other and caring for each other – so let’s keep that up!
Although current news about the spread of the virus remains challenging, there are reasons to be hopeful – over 80% of global cases so far are mild. Many countries are focussed on developing a vaccine as soon as possible and young children remain largely unaffected.
Aside from the medical risks of the virus, I remain concerned about the significant economic impact of the protection and lockdown measures that are being taken by governments of virtually all countries. We therefore urge the community, at this time, to be extremely prudent with their finances, limit new capital investments and to keep a significant portion of their assets as liquid cash until the economic environment improves. Any economic recovery may only occur several months or even years after the slowdown caused by the virus.
Time at Home
As we all stay home for longer periods of time, I encourage you to spend quality time with those most important to us – our families. This is a perfect time for us to bond with our parents, grandparents and children over discussions, meals, board games and prayers together. It is heartening to see that several families, over the past few weeks, have been using this time to grow even closer together. Many members have started to pray together as a family each evening.
The current environment presents an opportunity for us to pause and self-reflect, read books we may not have been able to, discover new languages, learn new recipes and explore addressing our lifelong learning needs. For the younger members of our Jamat, try to use the time to teach your parents and grandparents a thing or two about technology! I hope we will all gain knowledge, develop a new skill and become stronger and more united with our families.
Quality of Life Questionnaire
While most of the centres in the Far East remain suspended, our institutional efforts are not at a standstill. We are working on various ways to serve the community better - we will update you on these initiatives shortly. As part of our efforts, we have decided to launch our Far East Quality of Life questionnaire at this time. Its purpose is to establish the scope and scale of issues facing us, identify patterns of challenges, and pockets of opportunities. This anonymous questionnaire will enable institutional leaders to create a clear path forward as we design programmes and initiatives to better serve the community’s current and future needs. The questionnaire is completely anonymous, and we encourage every family to participate and complete it online.
At this time, I wanted to thank every member of our community for your unwavering support and patience as we navigate through these uncertain times. Together as a community, I am confident that we will overcome this. We urge you to remain resilient, stay committed to the ethics of our faith and keep in touch with each other, even if we are limiting physical contact. Our leadership team is available any time if there is anything we can assist you with or that you would like to discuss.
I would also like to commend all the members of our institutions, especially the COVID-19 Task Force, the Council Health portfolio and all our M/K for working so hard and round-the-clock to respond to the rapidly changing needs of our community due to the virus.
As much as we would have loved to enjoy dandia and dinner together this weekend – we hope and pray that we will be able to do this as a community very soon. We still encourage you to celebrate Navroz with us in spirit and to rejoice with your families.
On this joyous occasion, marking the beginning of a new year and the first day of spring, we pray that you and your families, remain safe, healthy, happy and blessed with lots of barakat with much hope and optimism. We also pray that our community, and all communities globally, have the strength and courage to overcome this period.
Navroz Mubarak and all the best for the New Year.
With best personal regards,
Council for the Far East