Ahead of the Ramadan season, anticipated to begin on 2 April until 1 May, International SOS, provides health tips for employees observing the holy month during the COVID-19 pandemic. The world’s leading health and security services company advises organisations to continue to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of their employees and share the advice.
Dr Olivier Barles, Regional Medical Director at International SOS said
Guidelines on physical distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene still apply this year. Even though vaccination rates against COVID-19 have reached good levels in many places, the pandemic is still not over yet. Therefore, when it is safe for healthy people to fast during Ramadan, those guidelines are important to follow to help prevent infection. As such, believers can still live their Ramadan to its fullest, while being cautious in regard to the COVID-19 risk, even though the current and dominant “Omicron” variant appears to be less severe than previous variants.
While there have been concerns raised over whether receiving the COVID-19 vaccine would break the fast, the majority of Islamic scholarly bodies have confirmed that "Receiving the COVID-19 vaccination as an intramuscular injection, the only route for the vaccines currently available, does not invalidate the fast" and some regions are planning to facilitate night-time jabs during Ramadan.
Top tips for a Healthy Ramadan (full explanations below):
- Do not skimp on rest and/or sleep
- Stagger your hydration
- Eat healthy and nutritious meals
- Do more in the morning
- Don’t stop exercising
In addition, individuals suffering from chronic illnesses should consult their doctors on how to manage regular medication and to ensure it is safe for them to fast.
Dr Barles continues,
Like last year, International SOS still urges people to avoid gatherings and practice social distancing of at least 1- 2 meters (3- 6 feet). People that are COVID-19 positive but that are asymptomatic and fit should isolate at home. They may still be able to fast in Ramadan, but should seek their doctor’s advice.
In any case, it is always and particularly important to identify persons at risk of severe form of COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions (e.g. cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease or cancer), to respect the social distancing and respect hand and general hygiene measures. However, people who are affected by COVID-19 may wish to consider the religious license to break their fast in consultation with their doctor.
Ramadan will see Muslims around the world observing daytime fasting for a period of 30 days, abstaining from meals and drinks, while spending large portions of their time in prayers. The fast begins with a light meal known as ‘Suhour’, consumed at dawn before Imsak time, and ends at sunset, when they break the fast with an evening meal of Iftar. Daylight hours during Ramadan this year will average around 16 hours in London, 14 hours in Dubai and 12 hours in Kuala Lumpur.
The end of Ramadan will be marked with a celebration of Eid al-Fitr, when Muslims typically attend their local mosque for Eid prayer and host great feasts with their family and friends throughout the day. However, as the pandemic situation continues to evolve, different restrictions are still in place for communal worships and public gatherings in most regions globally are still prohibited.
International SOS’ top five tips for employees observing the fast this Ramadan are:
- Do not skimp on rest and/or sleep – Ramadan is a time of increased prayer. Though it may be tempting to stay up late for Suhour and only sleep after Imsak, you should still aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep during every 24-hour period, even if this is accumulated over several separate periods of rest. A well-rested body and mind will make it easier for you to concentrate at work and have more energy throughout the day.
- Stagger your hydration – Thirst can be one of the most challenging symptoms of fasting, leading us to drink plenty of water and liquids very fast as soon as we break our fast and then just before Imsak. However, rehydration should be a cumulative process. The best way to rehydrate fasting bodies and maintain this hydration for longer is to pace your liquid intake by consuming at least 2 litres of water - one or two glasses at a time - between Iftar and Imsak. It also helps to cut down on caffeinated drinks at night, and to top up your liquid intake with soups, fruits and vegetables rich in water, such as cucumbers and watermelon.
- Eat healthy and nutritious meals – Fasting will cause a change of habit in eating and your food intake frequency. It is vital to fulfil your vitamin and mineral needs to maintain a strong immune system. Be mindful of your salt and sugar intake. After a full day of fasting, avoid satisfying cravings with soda and energy drinks which are high in sugar. Instead, opt for the unprocessed food such as fruits, and consume complex carbohydrates such as rice, bread and wholegrains alongside vegetables, which will keep you fuller for longer. As for salt intake, it is worth keeping in mind that having moderately savoury foods with water can help you retain some hydration for longer. However, consuming too much salt will have an adverse effect and contribute to thirst and dehydration during the day. Too much salt can affect blood pressure, so go easy on salty snacks such as popcorn and salted nuts at night.
- Do more in the morning – Where possible, schedule more difficult tasks requiring greater concentration or physical effort in the morning, when you will have more energy. International SOS encourages businesses each year to schedule important meetings during the first half of the day, when fasting employees will have more energy and will be better able to retain new information.
- Don’t stop exercising – Although you may feel more tired and understandably less active while fasting, skipping regular exercise for a full month is unhealthy, particularly as most of your food intake will be consumed at night. Moderate exercise is advisable and will also help you feel less sluggish. Just remember to wait a couple of hours after Iftar before doing an activity.
International SOS also reminds its members and employees to be mindful of the following guidelines to have a safe Ramadan amidst COVID-19:
- Follow the general hygiene measures strictly.
- Wash your hands frequently, regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
- Wash all the fruits and vegetables before consumption.
- Maintain social distancing at least 2 meters (6 feet) and avoid gatherings with friends and relatives during Breaking Fast (Iftar), Suhoor times and stay at home.
- Stay informed and follow the advice given by your healthcare provider and health authorities.
Group Head of PR & Communications, London
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