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Manila dioceses back on lockdown after Covid scare

Fast-transmitting Delta virus forces govt to declare strictest lockdown in Philippine capital

Manila dioceses back on lockdown after Covid scare

Health workers give residents Covid-19 vaccine shots in Mandaluyong City, Manila, on July 15. (Photo: AFP)

Manila dioceses are suspending face-to-face Masses due to a government advisory placing the entire Philippine capital in the strictest form of lockdown.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved on July 30 the recommendation of health experts placing the capital under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) — the strictest lockdown that prohibits religious mass gatherings — from Aug. 6-20.

Duterte’s spokesperson said health and government officials had debated whether to impose another lockdown because of its economic repercussions.

“It was a painful decision because it’s difficult to be under an ECQ, but we have to do it to prevent a shortage of ICU [intensive care unit] beds and other hospital requirements. This would happen if the number of cases balloons because of the Delta variant,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told the press on July 30.

“In the end, everybody thought that this difficult decision had to be made to save more lives.”

Manila dioceses have begun closing their church doors to parishioners. The dioceses of Kalookan, Cubao, Paranaque and Novaliches have announced the cancellation of public worship from July 31.

We encourage the faithful to stay at home and stay safe. I’m asking parishes to make their worship available online

“My dear faithful in the Diocese of Cubao, with the Delta variant threatening a surge of Covid-19 infection in the country, the Diocese of Cubao is declaring a suspension of public worship form July 31 to August 20,” wrote Cubao’s Bishop Honesto Ongtioco in an announcement on July 30.

He has encouraged churchgoers to support government measures to prevent the spread of the Delta virus.

“We encourage the faithful to stay at home and stay safe. I’m asking parishes to make their worship available online,” Bishop Ongtioco added.

The president of the bishops’ conference and Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David likewise reminded churchgoers of the rules under ECQ.

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“Here we go again … Under ECQ rules, only virtual religious gatherings shall be allowed. Gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurement, funerals for those who died of causes other than Covid-19 shall be allowed provided that the same shall be limited to immediate family members only,” Bishop David posted on Facebook.

Paranaque Diocese likewise announced on July 30 that all Masses including religious celebrations in small communities were canceled.

“We encourage everyone to participate in the livestream Masses and to have a prayerful quarantine,” the diocese announced on its Facebook page.

While Manila churchgoers said they would follow church guidelines, a repeat of ECQ has brought criticism of how the pandemic is being handled by the government.

“We keep on repeating the process. The solution is not in the lockdowns but in the vaccines and the rate they are jabbed among the people. Let’s not politicize the giving of vaccines,” Manila churchgoer Diogenes Serrano told UCA News.

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