The Philippine health department confirmed on July 7 that two priests from Manila tested positive for coronavirus when swabbed on arrival at Iloilo City airport in the Western Visayas region. Jaro Archdiocese spokesman Father Angelo Colada said the priests were members of a religious congregation assigned to communities in Iloilo City for “mission purposes.” “The missionary-priests are originally from Manila. They are here [Iloilo] to help the local Church in our apostolate and mission for the poor. Religious congregations are welcome to help in the diocese’s mission for the underprivileged,” Father Colada said in a statement. Father Colada said the priests could have contracted the virus during their previous assignments and mission areas in Manila. “The virus is spreading quickly. Some may even have it without showing symptoms. They [two priests] told me that they probably got the virus from their previous apostolate areas in Manila,” Father Colada added.
The two missionaries said they were tested before leaving Manila and tested negative for the virus. But when one of them had a sore throat upon arrival at the airport, local authorities required them to undergo swab tests to which they tested positive. The missionaries are now in a quarantine facility in Iloilo City. Meanwhile, a Philippine bishop and his clergymen have undergone coronavirus tests as parishes in Metro Manila prepare to resume public religious services. Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said that he and all his chancery staff decided to be tested as a precautionary measure before reopening churches. “We wanted to make sure that we are safe. If the priests and their staff are not Covid positive, churchgoers have nothing to fear,” Bishop Ongtioco said in a statement. The prelate said all the tests came up negative. “This is to ensure that we are fit to serve our people and that we also ensure their safety and health,” Bishop Ongtioco added. Philippine parishes have to ask permission from local governments in order to celebrate Masses in public while observing strict social distancing measures and other health protocols. Bishop Ongtioco said his vicar general spoke with Quezon City’s civic leader, Mayor Joy Belmonte, to allow them to resume public asses following government health guidelines. “We will follow the health procedures and standards set by the health department. Just as people want to go out to get groceries for food, many also want to go to churches for spiritual nourishment,” Bishop Ongtioco said. As of July 7, the Philippines had recorded 47,873 Covid-19 cases with 1,309 deaths.
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