This year, the concerns of the fourth wave of COVID-19 has cast a shadow over the celebrations of the Eid al-Adha festival in Pakistan.
by Raheela Nazir
ISLAMABAD, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Conventionally, the Eid al-Adha festival in Pakistan is an occasion of immense jubilation marked by family gatherings, mass social and religious events, shopping sprees, buying of sacrificial animals, grand feasts, as well as sharing joy with those in need by distributing gifts and food.
This year, however, the concerns of the fourth wave of COVID-19 has cast a shadow over the celebrations of the festival, which is being observed from Wednesday to Friday in Pakistan.
In an effort to curb the new wave of infection, the Pakistani government has advised the public to follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to protect themselves and their loved ones on the festive occasion.
Social visits and general family get-togethers should be avoided during the Eid al-Adha holidays, stated the guidelines issued by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination recently, adding that the public should avoid crowded markets, restrict themselves to shop for minimal essentials, and only undertake necessary travel as the risk of a new wave is imminent.
Arif Malik, a school teacher at a private college in the federal capital Islamabad, was looking forward to visiting his parents and siblings in his hometown in eastern Lahore city, but the wish of celebrating the occasion with his family did not come true owing to soaring COVID-19 cases in the country.
"Just a few weeks ago, my children and wife were planning on how to make these holidays special by spending it with family members in Lahore as the number of cases was declining... and then there were news of new variant of coronavirus and health experts warned that it is highly contagious and spreading so quickly, forcing us to postpone everything," Malik told Xinhua.
"This Eid al-Adha is not as it used to be in the past. We are missing out on so many things at the moment," he said, reminiscing that how his parents' house used to be filled with relatives and friends with an environment of noisy celebrations, laughter and lots of special Eid al-Adha dishes and desserts.
Malik said though his family are not able to spend the festival in the originally planned way, they made the right decision of canceling all the celebrations as the safety and health is of utmost importance. "We can celebrate many Eid al-Adha festivals in the coming years... only if we are alive."
However, things are a little different in parts of the country with low COVID-19 positivity rates and for people who have been fully vaccinated against the disease.
Talking to Xinhua, Inayat Ullah Khan, a resident of northwest Swat district, said that although it is not going to be a perfect Eid al-Adha, his family will definitely celebrate the festival the way it deserves to be celebrated.
"We are planning to host a limited get-together and barbeque party at our home. We will also be visiting a few of our relatives and friends as the situation in my area is not that worrisome," Khan said, adding that the people he is going to meet are all vaccinated, and also himself.
"The festival is going to be wonderful and fun-filled, and obviously, we will be taking all the safety measures set by the government even though we are vaccinated," he said.
Considering the recent spike in coronavirus cases, the Pakistani government has announced a strategy of imposing "smart lockdowns" in high-risk areas, and local authorities have also been directed to launch crackdowns against businesses violating COVID-19 SOPs.
While addressing the nation recently, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the coronavirus cases in the country are suddenly rising again due to the spread of the Delta variant, urging the public to adhere to the COVID-19 SOPs, especially on the occasion of Eid al-Adha.
"I would again like to appeal to the masses to wear a mask at all times so that the country could be saved from the possible fourth wave of the pandemic," the prime minister said.
Health experts in the country warned that Pakistan could witness a sharp rise in the number of cases in the coming days as the number of people infected with the highly contagious Delta variant is on the rise.
"The virus is becoming stronger after mutation. People must take the government-set precautionary measures and get themselves vaccinated the sooner the better to cease the new varieties of the virus to emerge," Lubna Ansari Baig, a public health expert, told Xinhua.
The chances of further spread of the deadly virus are high during Eid al-Adha, so people must cut down on their leisure activities and celebrate it at home to stay safe and healthy, she said.