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New-Year Covid surge closes Manila churches

Philippine capital ups alert level, expects uptick in infections resulting from festive season activities

New-Year Covid surge closes Manila churches

Two Catholic churches in Manila have been forced to close because of Covid-19 infections among priests and church workers. (Photo:AFP)

Published: January 03, 2022 09:23 AM GMT

Updated: January 03, 2022 09:49 AM GMT

Two Catholic churches in Manila have been forced to close after priests and staff there tested positive amid a renewed surge in Covid-19 infections that the government blamed on festive season activities.

The National Shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus and Saint Vincent de Ferrer parish in Manila announced they were suspending services, including Masses, from Jan. 1 to 14 because those infected were told to undergo quarantine.

“A priest and three Church personnel tested positive,” said shrine rector Father Lino Nicasio.

Catholics from around the country flocked to the St. Jude Thaddeus shrine during the Christmas holidays as Saint Jude is the patron saint of lost causes.

“We humbly urge all our parishioners to kindly follow our Masses via our Facebook account instead of praying inside the church. We need to be vigilant as the number of Covid-19 cases is now on the rise,” Father Nicasio added.

Meanwhile, several Church workers at Saint Vincent Ferrer parish in Manila also tested positive for the virus on Jan. 2 forcing its parish priest to close its doors.

“Our visiting priest has informed us also that he is experiencing severe fatigue and drowsiness, consistent with symptoms of Covid-19,” said parish priest Father Jun Toribio.

The church closures come amid a recent surge in coronavirus cases thought to be linked to the Omicron variant forcing the government to increase its virus alert level.

“There is a high possibility of local transmission of the Omicron variant… In the coming days, we may see an increase in infections because of the holidays,” said acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles.

He said only fully vaccinated people would be allowed in restaurants, movie theaters and other business establishments.

Wakes and funerals shall be limited to 30% of indoor venue capacity for fully vaccinated people and 50% outdoor venue capacity.

Face-to-face classes were likewise suspended while bars, clubs, concert halls, and other entertainment venues are off-limits.

On Jan. 2, the Philippines recorded 4,600 new Covid cases, the highest single-day tally since Oct. 29, 2020, making a total of 21,418 active cases, according to government figures.

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