Mohammed Jiva has rallied his community to help turn the Masjid E Ghosia mosque in the northern industrial town of Bolton into a 55-bed hospice for end of life patients.
It comes as venues across Britain are being turned into military hospitals and ice rinks are being used as temporary morgues as the nation prepares for a peak in cases.
When his local mosque was closing due to the UK’s lockdown rules, Dr Jiva contacted his colleagues at Bolton Hospital, Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE, Dr Sharif Uddin and Dr Rauf Munshi, to see if it would be possible to use the mosque’s large hall as a hospice facility.
"The mosque has a large hall, which is used for weddings and events, which would be just sitting there empty," he told The National.
“As the mosque’s medical officer and seeing what is happening at the ExCel and GMEX conference centres, I knew here in Bolton we would still have a major issue of how we look after the ill.
“The local hospital will struggle on where we can place end of life patients. I spoke to consultants at Bolton Hospital and another GP. We came together to look at how to turn the site into end of life care and to offer a 24/7 package of care.
“We put out a call for volunteers and got a great response with more than 60 people both young and old offering to help. Local dentists are helping to run the infection and control side.”
He expects to see the first patients coming into the mosque in the next two weeks, however, the doctors are still looking for volunteers to help the plans to go forward.
“We are needing builders’ merchants to help us with the materials that will enable us to section off each compartment so the patients have dignity,” Dr Jiva added.
“It’s important as we do not want patients seeing the person in the next bed dying. It will be staffed by local GPs.”
The Bolton Council of Mosques is supporting the initiative.
Said Mohammed Akuji, a trustee from the Council of Mosques, said: "Straight away we thought it was a fantastic idea and a great way to give back to the community.
"We thought how can we utilise this rather than just leaving it as it is, especially at a time when we really need something like this
"It's our way to help everybody in the community.”
In neighbouring Manchester, the Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium has opened its doors to the NHS as a training centre and conference centre the GMEX is being turned into a military hospital.
On Tuesday, Prince Charles, who has recently recovered from coronavirus, praised initiatives like Dr Jiva’s and the volunteers involved, describing their actions as “truly wonderful”.
In a video released on Twitter, he said: “It has been so wonderful to see just how many across the UK have signed up in their hundreds and thousands to be NHS volunteers, offering their help to do whatever they can to provide support to those on the frontline.”
The UK government issued new advice on funerals on Monday due to the risk that the virus could be transmitted to mourners and from the deceased person.
Faith leaders and funeral directors have been advised to restrict the number of mourners and limit them to close family members.
In addition, the guidance advises that since there is a small but real risk of transmission from the body of a deceased person, mourners are strongly advised not to take part in any rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the body of a person who has died from or with symptoms of coronavirus.
Mohamed Omer, board member of Gardens of Peace, said: “We welcome the new guidance and would like to reiterate that it is essential that we maintain social distancing at all times, including at funerals.
“We should also severely curtail the numbers who attend the funerals so as to ensure that staff working at burial sites and others are protected. If circumstances dictate then we should contemplate, as hard as it may seem, no attendees at funerals.
“It is also welcoming to note that we can perform our ritual wash as long as we observe the necessary precautions of wearing the right PPE and follow the process included in this guideline.”