Catholic religious congregations in the Philippines appealed for help for poor communities that are most affected by a new lockdown aimed at arresting the spread of the new coronavirus disease.
Franciscan priest Angel Cortez, executive secretary of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, said poor families “will be needing relief food aid in the next few days.”
The priest said ordinary workers, who haven’t recovered from the impact of the previous lockdown, “will have to stop going to work again.”
“They have to endure two weeks of ‘no work, no pay’ again,” said the priest, adding that it is a “Christian duty” to help the poor get through the pandemic “by sharing whatever spare resources that we have.”
Father Cortez said the public “may channel” donations to religious congregations in their communities or the local parishes.
“Many of our religious orders in the country, especially those that are in the Mega Manila, have continuous programs for the poor and those affected by the pandemic,” said the priest.
He said that some Catholic congregations “are also looking for volunteers, especially young people, who can help in many ways.”
Father Cortez expressed support for the call of the medical community for a “time out” period “when everyone is called to reassess actions” during the pandemic.
He said religious congregations in the country “have been very careful and keen” in observing the minimum health standards “to prevent community transmission.”
The priest, however, said that while responding to the call of healthcare workers, “we are also called to extend aid for those who are burdened economically.”
“Let us not get tired of extending a helping hand to poor families and communities that suffer the most during lockdowns and to those who are at the frontlines,” he said.
Divine Word priest Flaviano Villanueva, founder of Kalinga Center, said he plans to increase the number of meals that his center prepares daily for the homeless.
Kalinga Center has been distributing at least 750 hot meals daily for the homeless in the cities of Manila and in Quezon since the onset of the pandemic in March.
“We need to look for ways on how we could help our brothers and sisters, who are neglected by society,” said Father Villanueva, adding that a hot meal “could mean a great deal for a street dweller.”
Father Geowen Procincula of the Congregation of the Mission said they will continue to “share rice, canned goods, and vegetables to the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Millions affected by lockdown
More than 27 million Filipinos in the national capital and in surrounding provinces will be affected by the lockdown that started on Tuesday, August 4.
Philippine authorities implemented stricter quarantine measures after medical practitioners warned of exhausted health workers and health facilities being overwhelmed.
In an open letter to President Rodrigo Duterte, 80 medical groups representing 80,000 doctors and a million nurses said they were exhausted and falling ill.
More than 5,000 medical workers have contracted the virus, including 500 in the past week. At least 38 have died so far.
On Sunday, July 2, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the enforcement of a “modified enhanced community quarantine” in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces.
The president approved the reimposition of less stringent controls until Aug. 18, saying he could not order stricter measures because the government was already “scraping the barrel” for funds.
Under the moderate quarantine rules, people are ordered to stay home unless they need to buy essential goods.
People are allowed to go to work, but public transportation is suspended, with businesses instructed to provide shuttle service for their employees.
Bicycles, motorcycles and scooters are allowed.
Quarantine passes are required to keep people at home, and only one person from every household is allowed to go shopping for essentials.
The Philippine National Police said it would restore border checkpoints to enforce quarantine rules.
Mass gatherings are prohibited and restaurants are permitted to do takeaways only under the modified quarantine.
Businesses manufacturing essentials such as food and nonalcoholic drinks are allowed to operate at full capacity, but manufacturers of nonessentials such as alcoholic drinks and tobacco can operate at only 50 percent of their capacity.
Allowed to operate are essential businesses like banks, hospitals, drugstores, gas stations, grocery stores, markets, water refilling stations, laundry services, logistics, sanitation, repair and maintenance of machinery and equipment, telecommunications, and water and power distributors.
In shopping malls, government front-line services are allowed to operate on skeleton workforce, while hardware stores, clothing, bookstores and sellers of electronic equipment are allowed to run at 50 percent capacity.
Public and private construction works are banned.
Domestic flights and inter-island travel are also banned, and only few international flights are allowed.
Barbershops, hair salons and other personal-care services, moviehouses and other entertainment and leisure enterprises are not allowed.