Islamic Relief Worldwide apologises after celebration breaks Covid-19 rules

Islamic Relief Worldwide has apologised after about 30 of its staff and volunteers were pictured breaking Covid-19 rules at its clothes recycling headquarters in Birmingham last month.

Dozens of staff and volunteers, including the international aid charity’s chief executive, Waseem Ahmad, had gathered indoors for a post-Eid celebration meal.

Ahmad had not long been promoted to the top job after 15 years at the charity.

Social distancing rules in place at the time allowed only six people from two different households to meet indoors.

IRW said the staff pictured had been operating in a “working bubble” at its Birmingham office and all attendees had their temperature checked on arrival.

The images were shared with the Birmingham Live newspaper by a whistleblower who described the coronavirus rules breach by senior leaders at the charity as “hypocritical”.

An IRW spokesperson said: "In this context of strict Covid-19 compliance overall, we are sorry to say that sufficient distancing was not observed by all at a post-Eid celebration meal organised for a group of up to 30 staff in Birmingham on 20 May.

“This was shortly after the further relaxation of government rules on 17 May, when guidance signalled a further 'opening up' with regard to meeting friends, family and colleagues and placed increased emphasis on the need to exercise personal judgement around risks."

The spokesperson said staff concerned operated in a working bubble at the office and daily temperature checks, social distancing, masks, sanitisers and ventilation were all routinely used in day-to-day working.

“All staff at the meal had their temperature checked on arrival at the office and were asymptomatic," the spokesperson said.

“We regret that some did not sufficiently maintain the routine distancing of the working day during the celebration meal, and we will learn from this isolated incident to redouble our efforts in making sure all our activities are fully Covid-compliant."

The charity said it had taken an array of measures to implement national Covid-19 rules and protocols in its UK offices and in its operations and delivery of aid to vulnerable communities across the world.

“In the UK nearly all our staff are working from home, and we have social distancing, masks, sanitiser and one-way systems in place to protect the small number who do come into the office," it said.

"Our teams distributing food packs and other aid across eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia are all equipped with personal protective equipment to protect themselves and others from the virus.”

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