The Philippine government has announced that it will be allowing mass gatherings, including religious services, in areas placed under eased quarantine rules.
In new guidelines issued by the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious diseases public gatherings in areas under “modified general community quarantine” are allowed provided that participants shall be limited to 50 percent of the venue or seating capacity.
However, mass gatherings like those for the purposes of entertainment, sports, community assemblies, religious, and non-essential work gatherings are still prohibited in areas under “enhanced community quarantine,” modified enhanced community quarantine,” and “general community quarantine.”
“Religious gatherings shall be allowed under such guidelines as may be declared through subsequent issuances of the [task force],” read the new guidelines.
The guidelines also indicated that gatherings that are “for the provision of critical government services and authorized humanitarian activities” will be allowed in all quarantine levels.
Catholic church leaders welcomed the announcement but expressed dismay over the limit of up to 10 attendees in other areas under other quarantine levels.
“It is high time for the faithful to be back in the pews, as long as proper physical distancing and the other health protocols are strictly observed,” said Bishop Prudencio Andaya of Tabuk.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos welcomed the 50 percent attendance, saying the church “will apply it with great common sense in close collaboration with the local government.”
“We understand the spirit of the law and we care for the safety of everyone,” said the prelate.
Bishop Valentine Dimoc of Bontoc-Lagawe said the restriction on the movement of people under 20 years old and the elderly “has already greatly reduced the number of people attending religious activities.”
The prelate said his diocese is now training and organizing ministers who belong to the 21- to 59-year old age bracket to replace church workers who are not allowed to go out.
Bishop Dimoc, whose diocese is considered a low-risk area, said mass goers are “even less than 50 percent of the full capacity of churches.”
The prelate, however, said there is “no clear rational and medical basis” on the required number of attendees in other areas that the government had imposed.
“The Holy Mass is only one hour … I often see more than ten government officials who are gathered for a meeting for more than two hours, weekly,” said Bishop Dimoc.