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Philippine govt eases lockdown, but only slightly

Religious gatherings resume but cannot exceed 10 percent of church seating capacity

Philippine govt eases lockdown, but only slightly

A sacristan walks past empty church pews during an Easter Sunday Mass at a church in Bulacan, north of Manila, on April 4 after the government imposed stricter lockdown measures in the country's capital and nearby provinces after a surge in coronavirus infections. (Photo: AFP)

Authorities in the Philippines have announced a slight easing of lockdown measures that will allow the resumption of public religious gatherings.

“Strict home quarantine will still be observed. Travel should be limited to accessing essential goods but religious gatherings will be allowed up to 10 percent of the venue capacity,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced on April 11.

The country’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) had last month imposed an enhanced community quarantine — a strict lockdown that included a ban on religious gatherings that hit Holy Week celebrations.

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Roque asked for understanding from churchgoers frustrated when authorities imposed the ban which followed a spike in coronavirus cases.

“We beg for their indulgence. We had very high numbers of Covid-19 cases in past weeks, so the government needed to impose stricter lockdowns. Otherwise, [Covid] cases would continue to rise,” he said.

On April 12, the Philippines recorded 11,378 new infections with 204 deaths, bringing the death toll to 15,149.

Roque said wakes and funerals for non-Covid deaths are allowed but limited to immediate family members.

For Covid-related deaths, only adult family members are permitted to attend the funeral.

Let us just remain within the confines of our homes

Large gatherings at crematoriums and cemeteries must be avoided and there would also be no viewing of the remains.

“We are doing this to avoid transmission of the virus. We Filipinos love to gather during wakes. But wakes are potential spreaders of the virus, especially if the cause of death of our loved ones is Covid-19. Let us just remain within the confines of our homes,” Roque added.

The newly announced enhanced community quarantine lasts until April 30. Until then, weddings and baptisms are limited to less than 10 people. 

Some people felt the measures were still too strict.

“We have postponed our wedding three times already since the pandemic began because we wanted to invite as many people as we could. We cannot postpone it any longer. If the church will allow only 10 people, so be it,” said a couple in Quezon City whose wedding is to take place on April 17.

Some, however, are thankful that government and church authorities are limiting attendances in churches.

“We are living in an abnormal situation. We are in a pandemic. So, church and government measures must be adjusted based on data, based on the infection rate so that churches are not breeding grounds for the virus,” Manila parishioner Louie Jalcon told UCA News.

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