MUSLIM burials are now taking place under floodlight after an increased number of deaths in November.

The growing number of burials has also led to a desperate call to all those who felt the pandemic 'would not affect them'.

Between August to the end of October a total of 62, of which 23 were due to Covid, were buried in the Muslim section at Pleasington Cemetery, Blackburn. So far this month the figure has gone up markedly, with 37 people being buried in the Muslim section in just under three weeks. Of those over half (21) were from Covid.

The figure for November 2019 was 14.

A further 6 people have died over the weekend taking the total death to 43 up to and including Sunday 22 November.

Last Wednesday six people were buried in one day for the first time in the Muslim section. This is believed to be the most to be buried in one day at the cemetery. On Friday (November 13) five people were buried on one day.

The number of people buried in this period is also far more than during the first wave of Covid-19 we have learned when it is believed no more than four people were buried on any one day.

In April, there were 32 burials (11 Covid related) in the Muslim section and a further 26 (four Covid related) during May. This dropped to 15 and 14 for the months of June and July.

In September, 11 (three Covid related) burials took place and further 29 in October – 20 (79 per cent of deaths) of which were due to Covid.

In total throughout November, Royal Blackburn Hospital has had around more than 240 Covid patients of which around 30 on average have been in ICU. At the peak of the first lockdown the total in hospital due to Covid was around 140.

Also See: REVEALED: Number of deaths in East Lancashire hospitals since the start of coronavirus pandemic

Sayyed Osman, the council's adult services director, said: “During the summer months we did support burials into the evenings as late as 7pm at the peak, this included cremations as well.

“However, within the Muslim faith the ability to bury quickly is the key. Therefore, given days are shorter, respect for Salah (Prayer) times and an increase in the number of deaths, the Council has worked with our partners to find solutions. One of these is to use floodlights after 3pm as an exception.

“This allows the last burial slot to be 5pm. Floodlights are only being used by exception. It just means that we are not having to wait another day as this just creates a delay every day and eventually a backlog, which can be distressing for bereaved families.”

A special video has also been released by Blackburn with Darwen Council featuring contributions from the Lancashire Council of Mosques and the Blackburn Muslim Burial Society. In it people are made more aware of the policy on burials and why it is important not to visit homes to pay respects once someone dies, which is common with the community.

Mr Osman said it was important now more than ever that there was an increased focus on keeping family members safe and he made a plea to those who still thought the pandemic would not affect them.

He said: “We really need our communities to understand that these are exceptional times and we cannot treat Covid like flu or a common cold.

"We are seeing some very sad events where families’ lives are being shattered by the loss of loved ones due to the spread of COVID from within the family.”

“The evidence is suggesting intergenerational transmission. Basically, it’s being passed on from social interaction within households of several generations.

“We are at risk of prematurely losing a whole generation of people who gave many sacrifices for their families and community.

“These people endured difficult lives working long hours in mills and factories to give their children and grandchildren a better life.

"Sadly, some of the younger generation are not reciprocating these sacrifices with the effort and behaviour that this older generation deserves to keep them safe.”

Prof Dominic Harrison, Director of Public Health for Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “The differences in risks between white British citizens and BAME British citizens of contracting Covid-19, being hospitalised or dying from the virus are stark.

“Most of the main differences in the risk are not biological in origin - it is not because South Asian or black people are more genetically at risk. The risks are mainly social and economic with cultural and behavioural factors playing some role - but these factors are not the main drivers of risk.

“In many South Asian communities, there are more than average numbers of frontline workers who have kept society functioning during lockdowns, who will of necessity have been more risk-exposed to the virus.”

“Many of these workers are on lower than average incomes and they will have struggled with the economic consequences of self-isolation.

"South Asian communities are more likely to have larger multi-generational families living in smaller houses, and so are at risk of household transmission more than the national average.

“The latest public health data shows that someone who is Asian and over the age of 65 is nearly five times more likely to get coronavirus than someone who is White British.

"The risk for Asian people between the ages of 45 and 64 years is over three times (3.7) more than a white British person.

“Much of the increased risk for South Asian communities arises from unjust and unfair social systems.

“These have created ‘risk conditions’ which, when coupled with cultural patterns of social mixing, means that more people are more at risk more often in South Asian communities.

“To achieve the same Covid risk profile, South Asian communities have to work harder at sticking to the guidelines than white British residents for the reason that any single breach of the Covid guidelines is likely to carry a very significantly raised risk of becoming infected by another community member who may be asymptomatic. This is deeply unfair.

“We all need to follow the public health guidelines in place at the moment – that is staying at home as much as possible, wearing face masks in enclosed public places, washing our hands more frequently, and practising social distancing and minimising social mixing.

“If we all do this, we will decrease the risk of taking the infection home to our nearest and dearest.”