Filipino Catholics continue to attend public Masses amid reports that the country is already facing local transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The Philippines’ Health Department reported on March 8, that the total number of confirmed cases in the country have already reached 10.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Manila Archdiocese, told LiCAS.news there has been no decline in the number of people attending Mass.
He added there were no reports of a sudden drop of Sunday Mass attendance even from the city of San Juan, a suburb of Manila, where one case of COVID-19 has been reported.
The prelate said the archdiocese will continue to take necessary precautions during the celebration of religious activities.
Bishop Pabillo said there is no reason for the public to panic as he urged parishes and church groups to help in educating the public about the disease.
The prelate also urged the public not to spread “fake news or false information.”
In the Cubao Diocese, Father Ronaldo Santos of the Christ the King parish, said he has not noticed a decline in the number of churchgoers since December.
The priest said church leaders have been reminding people to follow the guidelines the church earlier issued to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We also provided soap and water in every toilet and washroom. Containers of alcohol are in every entrance and exit points. We also posted educational materials,” said Father Santos.
Philippine church leaders earlier asked the faithful to receive Communion only in the hand, to refrain from holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer, and to regularly clean out holy water fonts.
The country’s Catholic bishops also sent every parish an obligatory prayer to be recited “after Communion, kneeling down,” asking God to protect people from the virus.
Bishop Prudencio Andaya of Tabuk, meanwhile, called on the country’s health authorities to give “clear guidelines for preventive measures” and “a proper procedure” on what to do for those with symptoms of the virus.
Bishop Buenaventura Famadico of San Pablo said the country must focus on monitoring the spread of the disease and to attend to the poor who cannot afford a medical check-up.
“We have to be serious with our personal safety, [be] much attentive to personal hygiene, and be much concern with the common good,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga.
The prelate urged everyone to “do more sacrifices, fasting, and offer prayers for the discovery of the vaccine against the disease,” especially during the Lenten season.
Among the ten confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, three are Filipinos with no travel history outside the country, making them the first cases of local transmission.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said authorities are preparing for the possibility of “localized transmission.”
The presidential palace announced that President Rodrigo Duterte will sign an executive order declaring a state of public health emergency across the country.