Spike in COVID-19 cases feared as thousands flock Quiapo for Black Nazarene feast
Thousands of devotees flock Quiapo in the city of Manila to celebrate the Feast of the Black Nazarene.
K R De Asis/Manila Public Information Office

Spike in COVID-19 cases feared as thousands flock Quiapo for Black Nazarene feast

(Philstar.com) - January 9, 2021 - 3:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — Experts fear that a spike in COVID-19 cases would happen as thousands of devotees flocked Quiapo in the city of Manila for the feast of the Black Nazarene.

“We’re really going to need a miracle to stop a superspreader event in Quiapo right now,” said doctor Edsel Salvaña, among the experts in the technical advisory group that advises the Department of Health (DOH).

He pleaded to devotees not to go to Quiapo, where the basilica of the centuries-old image of the Black Nazarene is located.

“Aren’t we supposed to watch out for each other? Putting others at risk is about as un-Christian as it gets,” Salvaña said.

Doctor Tony Leachon, former adviser to the government’s COVID-19 task force, also echoed these concerns, saying that violating social distancing protocols will only lead to an increase in coronavirus cases.

“Our faith is not proven by physical presence only,” Leachon said. “God will not look over for our attendance on this once a year event but for scars of sacrifice and love of humanity.”

Amid fears that the Feast of the Black Nazarene may turn out to be a superspreader event, the Department of Health asked devotees who physically attended Saturday’s celebrations to isolate at home and observe themselves for symptoms of COVID-19.

The local government and church officials decided to call off the “traslacion,” or the procession of the image of the Black Nazarene, due to the pandemic but pushed through with the holding of 15 masses where 400 people at a time would be allowed inside the basilica.

Thousands, however, were still present for the feast of the Black Nazarene outside of the church.

Earlier in the day, Manila Police District chief PGen. Leo Francisco told CNN Philippines that as of 9:30 a.m. an estimated 400,000 people had already been seen in Quiapo. He said that he expects that number to swell to a million by the end of the day.

A recent survey by OCTA Research showed that 48% of people in Metro Manila prayed to avoid contracting COVID-19. — Xave Gregorio with reports from Sheila Crisostomo and Janvic Mateo/The STAR

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