Family members performing last rites for a father-of-eight and a much-loved member of the local community, all while wearing face masks and standing separately from one another.

This was the heartbreaking scene today during the funeral service of an elderly Muslim man from Birmingham, who died only days ago after contracting coronavirus.

Mourners gathered to pay their final respects to Afsar Hussain, 86, from Saltley who passed away on Saturday (March 21) after a short battle with the virus; which has in the last few weeks been declared a global pandemic.

Grandfather Afsar Hussain from Saltley has died from coronavirus, according to this family
Afsar Hussain from Saltley died from coronavirus, after being admitted to Heartlands Hospital

The pensioner was admitted to Heartlands Hospital with a urine infection, but was then diagnosed with the severe respiratory infection COVID-19. He died less than 24 hours later.

A former Dudley Road foundry worker, Afsar was a father-of-eight and grandfather to 19.

In a social media post published on Saturday, his devastated son Akeel Hussain shared:

“My dad tested positive for coronavirus just a few days ago. Don’t risk yourselves, self-isolate yourselves and your families if need be. RIP dad, may Allah elevate your rank and grant you paradise.”

Responding to the news, hundreds of people expressed their sadness and left messages of sympathy on Facebook.

Men wear face masks, gloves and coverall suits during the Islamic funeral service for Afsar Hussain from Birmingham Supplied
Men wear face masks, gloves and coverall suits during the Islamic funeral service for Afsar Hussain from Birmingham
Afsar Hussain's sons wore face masks and sanitary gloves as they prayed over his graveSupplied
Afsar Hussain’s sons wore face masks and sanitary gloves as they prayed over his grave

Following their father’s passing, Afsar’s children had urged people not to visit the family homes to reduce the risk of spreading of the virus.

However, close family members did come together to say their final farewell. The religious funeral service, known as a janaaza, was held outdoors as soon as the body was released to next of kin. In Islamic tradition, it is recommended that a burial is held within 24 hours of death; but this is not always possible.

The current government restriction on large gatherings meant the funeral was a small affair, with precautions taken to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus amongst attendees.

Individuals congregated for the service wearing surgical face masks and gloves, with some in a complete protective coverall. Flowers spelling out the words “Dad”, “Abbi” and “Grandad” were also placed on Afsar’s graveside.

A hearse adorned with flowers carries Afsar Hussain's coffin in Birmingham Supplied
A hearse adorned with flowers carries Afsar Hussain’s coffin in Birmingham
Flowers spelling out the words "Dad" and "Grandad" were also placed on Afsar Hussain's gravesideSupplied
Flowers spelling out the words “Dad” and “Grandad” were also placed on Afsar Hussain’s graveside

Reflecting after the service, Akeel commented:

“Goodbye dad, May Allah azzwajal (the Mighty) look after you now, just the way you looked after us. Ameen.”

His elder brother Zafar Hussain, who led the funeral prayer service, wrote:

“May Allah elevate my beloved father’s ranks and give the highest abode in jannat (heaven). Ameen.”

Much-loved community figure Afsar Hussain from Saltley, Birmingham, was a grandfather with eight children and 19 grandchildrenSupplied
Much-loved community figure Afsar Hussain from Saltley, Birmingham, had eight children and 19 grandchildren

While weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies are being stopped in the UK during the coronavirus lockdown, funerals are still going ahead. But according to many affected, exact guidance on logistics hasn’t been made very clear.

Jon Levett, chief executive of the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), said in a statement on Monday:

“We have reached out to the Government to clarify a number of questions, including the maximum number of people that can attend a funeral – but our initial advice to funeral directors and the public is to arrange funerals over the phone wherever possible, restrict attendees to immediate close family only and respect social distancing guidelines.

“We understand that this advice may be very difficult for families, and funeral directors will do everything they can to help families say goodbye – using web streaming where possible to include other family members and perhaps planning a celebration of the person’s life in the months to come – but it is vitally important we respect Government guidance for social distancing, to help stop the spread of Covid-19.”

The UK’s first coronavirus-related death was recorded on 5 March and it took another 13 days for the number of deaths to pass 100.Adam Yosef
The UK’s first coronavirus-related death was recorded on 5 March and it took another 13 days for the number of deaths to pass 100

Birmingham City Council has recently said that if the family of a deceased person has been told to self-isolate, arrangements can be made for an alternative qualified informant to collect the medical certificate and go to a register office.

“This can be another relative, someone present at the death or an administrator from the hospital,” the council said.

Health officials have urged members of the public to observe social distancing and keep away from large gatherings.

Families with several members living in the same residence or street have been advised to keep younger individuals and potential COVID-19 carriers away from the elderly and vulnerable, who are at higher risk of the virus threat.


UK coronavirus deaths reach 422

A woman wearing a face mask walks through the Bullring in Birmingham on Wednesday (March 18)Adam Yosef
A woman wearing a face mask walks through the Bullring in Birmingham on Wednesday (March 18)

The COVID-19 coronavirus is spreading globally at an alarming rate, with concerns heightened due to the lack of vaccine for the virus’ current strain, which can be lethal to those with weakened immune systems.

The epidemic has been declared a global pandemic, with confirmed cases presently surpassing 250,000 around the world, with more than 15,000 deaths.

422 people have so far died in the UK from the virus, rising by 87 in just a day and the biggest daily increase in both deaths and cases in the UK so far. However, experts believe we are still two or three weeks away from the peak of the outbreak.

The UK’s first coronavirus-related death was recorded on 5 March and it took another 13 days for the number of deaths to pass 100. The youngest victim was only 18-years-old. The UK government’s chief medical advisers are encouraging everyone to self-isolate and wash their hands regularly.

According to current report, a total of 42 people have died in the West Midlands in connection with COVID-19, making it a hotspot for the virus.

The latest figures come after the government ramped up measures being taken against the coronavirus pandemic following new predictions that the UK is only two weeks behind the outbreak’s effects in Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country.

The Prime Minister announced on Monday that the country would be entering a period of nationwide lockdown. As of Monday night, people can only leave their homes to shop for food and other essentials, to get one type of exercise a day, to go to work, for medical needs, and to give care or aid a vulnerable person.


If you’re worried about coronavirus symptoms or have related concerns, please visit: https://gov.uk/coronavirus.


Latest Birmingham UK COVID-19 Coronavirus News

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