At least two Catholic churches in the Philippine capital Manila were closed after a priest and three church workers tested positive of COVID-19 this week.
The National Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus has suspended public Masses for two weeks from December 31 until January 14.
“For the duration of the closure, there will be thorough disinfection and intensive sanitation and, hence, the churchgoers are requested to refrain from coming to the church in the meantime,” read a statement released by the shrine.
The parish encouraged parishioners to instead attend Masses through its online livestreams.
“Let us implore the Almighty God in our fervent prayers for the sick that they will be restored to good health, through the constant intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our beloved Patron of Hope, Saint Jude Thaddeus,” added the statement.
The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene will also be closed to the public from January 3 to 6 for disinfection.
Father Douglas Badong, parochial vicar of the Church, announced the temporary closure.
“Due to reports of sudden increase in COVID-19 cases in Manila, we thought of temporarily closing Quiapo Church from January 3 to 6,” said the priest in a video posted on the church’s website.
“This is the church’s way of preventing the spread of COVID and to also give way for the cleaning and disinfection,” he added.
Father Badong said the church will re-open on January 7 in preparation for the Feast of the Black Nazarene.
“We ask for your understanding and cooperation,” said the priest, adding that although the church will be closed, Masses will continue to be available online.
“We encourage you to take part in the novena Masses online,” he said.
The priest also asked the people to get vaccinated and get booster shots against COVID-19.
Authorities, meanwhile, announced on Monday that unvaccinated individuals in the capital are prohibited from going outside of their residences starting January 3.
The Metro Manila Council approved the resolution, which further restricted the movement of unvaccinated individuals in the National Capital Region.
Under the guidelines, unvaccinated individuals should remain inside their homes except when buying necessities, going to work, or other essential activities.
Outdoor exercises for such people are allowed within their vicinity.
The positivity rate of COVID-19 infections in the Philippine capital stood at 28.7 percent on Monday, a slight jump from the 28 percent the day before and the 21 percent before that.
The number of new cases in the capital region on Monday is expected to stall to anywhere between 2,000 and 2,500 after authorities tallied 3,314 cases in Metro Manila on Sunday.
“The rapid increase in positivity rate in the [National Capital Region] has slowed down, possibly due to a decrease in social and mass gatherings leading up to the New Year’s Eve,” said Guido David of the independent OCTA Research group.
Of the cases in Metro Manila, the cities of Manila, Quezon, and Makati topped the list with 949, 648, and 211 cases in their localities, respectively.
The World Health Organization’s benchmark for opening the economy is five percent of tests.
As of the Department of Health’s latest tally on January 2, 19.6 percent of all tests around the country came back positive.
Earlier, OCTA said that hospital bed occupancy for COVID-19 patients in the capital increased by 41 percent compared to the previous week. – with a report from CBCP News