Ramadan officially began on Friday, April 24, 2020, in Cameroon, amid the coronavirus pandemic. During this holy month, Muslims must respect certain obligations, including the prohibition of eating and drinking between dawn and sunset.
However, many believers are concerned that fasting may increase the risk of contracting Covid-19. This fear is unfounded, according to doctors. "If fasting is understood as deprivation of food and/or water, it does not increase the risk of contracting the coronavirus," says Dr. Patrick Nzogang. The World Health Organization (WHO) also states that it is safe to fast, as long as one is in good health.
"No studies of fasting and risk of COVID-19 infection have been performed. Healthy people should be able to fast during this Ramadan as in previous years, while COVID-19 patients may consider religious licenses regarding breaking the fast in consultation with their doctors, as they would do with any other disease," says the WHO, which in mid-April published its recommendations for this month of deprivation and penance.
Indeed, although fasting during Ramadan (one of the five pillars of Islam) is an obligation for every Muslim, the sick are exempt from it.
"One of the conditions for fasting is to be in good health. God says in the Qur'an that whoever among you is sick will have to make up an equal number of days. So a sick person, whose illness does not allow him/her to fast now, can suspend fasting but must make up for the missed days afterward. People suffering from chronic diseases, which require them to take medicines all the time, are also exempted from fasting. They will simply, for every day of fasting not completed, feed a poor person. The person is left free to assess the degree of his or her illness himself or herself. If they feel that they will be hindered by fasting, they have the possibility of suspending it," explains Imam Professor Souley Mane, spokesman for the National Lunar Crescent Commission, the body empowered to communicate the beginning and end of Ramadan in the country.
In other words, patients suffering from serious illnesses are exempted from fasting. This practice is also strongly discouraged for the elderly, who are most vulnerable to serious forms of coronavirus. Numerous scientific studies demonstrate the health benefits of intermittent fasting, particularly in the case of certain pathologies such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
"It boosts our immune defenses by increasing autophagy, which eliminates malformed, sick, or dead disease-causing cells. Adopting it means allowing ourselves to be purified from the inside, to cleanse the body," says Dr. Frédéric Saldmann, a French cardiologist and nutritionist.
Thanks to fasting, "the immune system's defenses become stronger, a real rejuvenation of the immune system comes into action and helps to go back in time. With fasting, the anti-aging hormone production rises to 3000%. And, above all, inflammation - the gateway to viral infections and many other diseases - drops completely," adds the specialist.
Patricia Ngo Ngouem