A religious leader has urged members of his community “to act now” to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Imam Hafiz Saleem, from Watford Central Mosque, says there has been an increase in the number of cases of Covid-19 involving the Muslim community in Watford.

In a video message, created with Watford Borough Council, Imam Saleem said: "I wanted to speak to you urgently because worryingly the number of cases in our community is increasing a lot quicker than in other groups.

"We need to act now to prevent further deaths. So I’m urging you all to take action now to protect our loved ones, especially those that are more vulnerable including the elderly."

The latest available figures from the government shows the area of Watford which saw the biggest uptake in new cases at the end of October and beginning of November was in the west of the town.

Cases increased from 13 in the seven days to October 28 to 32 in the seven days to November 4.

North Watford, including Leggatts, has also seen a high number of cases in October, compared with the rest of the town – but government data shows cases are reducing in this part of Watford.

Urging the Muslim community to stick to the new restrictions put in place by the government in England, Imam Saleem said: "Please remember to stick to the basics and wash your hands, cover your face, make space, and limit your close contact, especially indoors.

"If possible, only meet people you don’t live with outdoors and remember to keep your distance.

"Together these simple actions can dramatically decrease the spread of coronavirus.

"I know this is an extremely hard time for us all but for now keeping apart as much as possible is the best way we can show our love for one another."

Asian Image:

Credit: Watford Borough Council

Imam Saleem confirmed the town’s mosques are currently closed for congregational prayers, including Friday prayers.

It is not the first time cases have been on the rise in the community - an outbreak of coronavirus involving the Muslim community in Watford was supressed a week before Eid in July.

There was concern that a spread of cases in Luton could be repeated in Watford - but a situation which could have seen cases spiral out of control in the town during a period of celebration was resolved, after a quick and targeted communication campaign involving representatives from the Muslim community, Watford councillor Asif Khan, and public health officials from Hertfordshire County Council.

Cllr Khan hopes this messaging will work again to bring levels of the virus down once more.

He said: "We need to adhere to the rules. We need to work together to keep our communties safe. There are dangers of Covid, it is still out there. I thank residents for their patience and perservance but we need to continue." 

Watford continues to have one of the highest weekly rates of new coronavirus cases in Hertfordshire.

Lates figures show all ten Hertfordshire districts currently have rates of over 100 cases per 100,000 population – this is the first time this has happened since the peak of the pandemic.

But director of public health in Hertfordshire, Jim McManus, said last week the lockdown is an “opportunity to reset” and bring the number of cases down across the county.