LONDON, ONT. -- For the second year in a row Muslims are observing Ramadan during pandemic lockdown restrictions.

The spirit of the holy month is still there, but sister and brother Sumeria and Kresnik Imerag say it feels different.

“It’s hard, we’re used to being close to family, getting all together and having laughs and jokes," said 25-year-old Kresnik. “But you know you can’t even do that. There’s a lot of stuff you can’t do, and that’s heartbreaking.”

Sumeria, aged 20, said she worries about those with language barriers, “With the COVID you can’t just go in and do everything up front. It’s always online, and some people don’t understand online.”

Places of worship are allowed to open with 15 per cent capacity, but London's Muslim institutions have opted to keep mosques closed during the stay-at-home order, with the exception of special Friday night prayers for Ramadan.

Muslim community faith leader Abd Alfatah Twakkal said it’s important to maintain a spiritiual connection while being safe.

“There’s no question that it is a struggle, because it’s out of the ordinary in terms of what our community is used to experiencing, especially during the month of Ramadan. But at the same time we also look for the opportunities that exist despite our circumstances, and so we see Ramadan as a month of openings.”

The observance of Ramadan involves fasting between dawn and sunset of each day. Some have asked about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine during this period. According to Twakkal, the Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force has determined it is OK.

“Because the vaccination is not something that enters into the body cavity per se, nor does it have any nourishing effect, so there’s general consensus that the vaccinations do not break the fast of the Muslims.”

Before the daily fast comes to an end, many will look for traditional foods for Iftar -- the meal that takes place after the day-long fast.

Fatima Fayed, who owns Zaatarz Bakery on Southdale Road East, says she always gets big crowds near closing time.

“They come just maybe an hour, half hour before we close -- everybody wants to get the hot stuff. It’s a really good feeling about Ramadan, and about what you do.”

Ramadan wraps up on May 13.