Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the disease has transmitted rapidly all over the world, affecting all aspects of life, including health, economy, psychology, and social life. Several evidence-based guidelines have been applied by governments globally to decrease the viral spread and to improve the community's wellbeing. These strategies, such as lockdowns, distancing, isolations, testing, and vaccinations, have been announced and applied. However, community acceptance and adherence to these health-related instructions were a critical challenge. Therefore, this study investigated the role of religious awareness in adherence to health directives during the COVID-19 pandemic in Palestine.
This study has revealed that popular religious beliefs regarding obedience to God, non-compliance with COVID-19 health guidelines being tantamount to the commission of suicide, maintaing the safety of others are influential in the public's acceptance of and adherence to the safety measures. Additionally, the impact of religious awareness on these areas varied according to gender, age group, level of education, and place of residence. Our findings are in acceptance with what was reported in that the presence of more religious affiliation is associated with less suicidal behaviors (15). Addressing the patients' religious beliefs during medical care is important and had been proven in dealing with other infectious diseases (16).
Nevertheless, some studies have shown a decreased adherence to the COVID-19 mitigation policies in communities with higher religiosity (17). But a high level of consensus has been observed in our study regarding the role of religious awareness in accepting the social distancing during religious activities, suspending religious congregations in mosques and churches, and participation in religious rituals such as Haj, Omra, or Christmas celebrations, as a means to reduce disease transmission. Our findings have been observed in Saudi Arabia, where a high level of compliance is reported in terms of social distancing (18) and suspension of religious activities that gather a large number of the population simultaneously (19). These practices are essential during the current situation because the gathering of different nationalities during religious rituals, such as Haj, is dangerous and will worsen the pandemic because SARS-CoV-2 has shown rapid evolution and highly transmissible mutations that can span rapidly around the world.
Our study indicates that religious figures play a vital role in promoting adherence to health-related instructions either by statements, appeals, or personal examples. The widespread reliance on conspiracy theories regarding COVID-19 has affected adherence to health-related instructions and the acceptance of diagnosis and treatment (20). Our study shows an agreement about the role of religious figures in rebutting these conspiracy theories regarding the COVID-19, which have also been elicited in other countries (21). This is explained by the role of religiosity in mediating trust in science which represents a vital part in community acceptance and adoption of health-related strategies (22).
A previous study revealed a significant positive correlation between the awareness, attitudes, and practices concerning COVID-19 (19). This proves the importance of organizing proper awareness programs that target the community based on gender, age, educational level, and place of residence, and this is supported in our study since significant variations in responses based on these demographic variables have been revealed, and these findings are consistent with other studies (23, 24). It has been reported in other studies that there is a gap in the knowledge, attitudes, and practices concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, such as social distancing and the wearing of protective masks (24). Our study reported a high agreement from the community regarding the vital role of various aspects of religious awareness through social media, governmental officials, and participation in less risky religious activities in line with the health instructions. Other studies have shown the importance of the harmony between religious, community, and educational leaders in promoting awareness, increasing community compliance with health protocols, overcoming the vaccination hesitancy, and provoking trust in science (21, 25, 26).
The observed role of religion in helping the public cope with the COVID-19 pandemic proves what has been previously reported about dealing with health crises. A multidisciplinary approach, where culture, religion, and the state collaborate, should be adopted to mitigate the virus transmission and maintain public health during the pandemic (27–29). Furthermore, an inverse correlation between the mitigating effect of religion and adults' mental health problems was revealed in another study (30) and this proves the importance of integrating religion as a major discipline in dealing with health crises such as COVID-19.