Churches in Metro Manila have suspended the public celebration of Masses following the government’s declaration of an “enhanced community quarantine” or lockdown due to the pandemic in the national capital region.
All dioceses in the Philippine capital have ordered the suspension of the celebration of public Masses until August 20 and dispensed the Catholic faithful from their weekly obligations.
Catholic bishops issued statements appealing to the people to stay home and follow the government’s health guidelines during the lockdown.
Masses and other religious celebrations will continue to be streamed online.
“Let us continue to support the preventive measures being implemented by the government to slow down the surge of the virus,” said Bishop Honest Ongtioco of Cubao in a statement.
“We encourage the faithful to stay at home and stay safe,” he said. “We will reopen our churches for public worship on August 21, if conditions improve.”
In the Diocese of Parañaque, funeral Masses will be allowed but under strict health protocols.
Bishop Jesse Mercado of Parañaque said churches will be left open for personal prayer as long as people follow minimum health standards.
“We continue to storm heaven with our prayers especially in this uncertain situation of our time,” said the prelate.
“May our prudent and faithful observance of our protocols ensure the safety of our family and country,” he added.
The Manila Cathedral also announced the temporary suspension of the public celebration of Masses.
“Following government regulations released today prohibiting religious gatherings, the Manila Cathedral temporarily suspends public celebration of Masses from July 31 to August 20,” read an announcement from the cathedral.
“The daily celebration of the Mass will continue to be broadcast online through the Manila Cathedral Facebook page and YouTube channel,” it added.
President Rodrigo Duterte approved the imposition of lockdown measures in the capital in a bid to contain the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant and to shield the country’s medical system.
The capital region, a sprawl of 16 cities, is home to more than 13 million people.
The lockdown, which is expected to cost the economy US$4 billion, will mean people cannot leave their homes, except for essential shopping, while indoor and al fresco dining is banned.
“Delta is all over Metro Manila already. This is proper intervention,” Benjamin Abalos, chairperson of the capital’s council of mayors, told Reuters.
The mayors planned to step up vaccinations to 250,000 doses a day, up from 150,000 now, he said.
The highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, has spread rapidly across much of Southeast Asia.
The Philippines also extended a ban on travelers coming from 10 countries including India, Indonesia, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates to Aug. 15.
Already battling the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in Asia, the Philippines has recorded over 1.59 million COVID-19 cases and 28,016 deaths.
On Sunday, the country recorded 8,735 more COVID-19 cases, marking its highest single-day count since May 28 and the third consecutive day new infections topped 8,000.
Department of Health data showed the latest additions brought the cumulative case tally to 1,597,689.
Of the nationwide total, 63,646 or 4% are active cases — the highest since May 7. Around 94% of the active cases are reported to have mild symptoms, 1.3% are asymptomatic, 1.45% with moderate symptoms, while 2.1% are severe cases, and 1.2% are in critical condition.
For the fourth day in a row, newly reported deaths also breached a hundred.
The viral illness killed 127 more people, with 75 previously tagged as recoveries before final validation, the DOH said. A total of 28,016 lives nationwide have now been lost to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the number of survivors reached 1,506,027 with 5,930 more recoveries.
The figures translate to a case fatality rate of 1.75% and a recovery rate of 94.3%.
The second wave in the Philippine outbreak peaked in April but infections have started to rise again in recent weeks.
With only 7% of the country’s 110 million people fully vaccinated, tens of millions remain vulnerable to COVID-19. – with a report from Reuters