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Bishop may appeal for added capacity for churches
David yesterday said they would seek permission from government to allow more people to enter churches and parishes, now that the quarantine classification for National Capital Region, along with Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, has been downgraded from modified enhanced community quarantine to GCQ with heightened restrictions.
Michael Varcas, file

Bishop may appeal for added capacity for churches

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - May 18, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David might appeal to local government units (LGUs) for an increase in allowable seating capacity for religious gatherings from 10 percent to 30 percent during general community quarantine (GCQ) until the end of May.

David yesterday said they would seek permission from government to allow more people to enter churches and parishes, now that the quarantine classification for National Capital Region, along with Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, has been downgraded from modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to GCQ with heightened restrictions.

But aside from appealing to the national government, the prelate said they would also make the same request to LGUs covered by the Diocese of Caloocan – the cities of Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas.

“We were also told that we could coordinate with LGU heads who might tolerate up to 30 percent seating capacity, depending on the COVID-19 transmission statistics within the LGU. We have yet to confer with the LGUs on this matter. We deal with three LGUs in our diocese,” said David, vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

But for CBCP Public Affairs Committee executive secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano, he does not see any need for a bigger seating capacity for religious gatherings since many people remain confined in their homes as a precaution against COVID-19.

“There’s no issue, I think, with the church. People are afraid to go out anyway,” said Secillano, parish priest of Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro Parish in Sampaloc, Manila.

Archdiocese of Manila chancellor Fr. Reginald Malicdem, on the other hand, is leaving it to the bishops in the NCR Plus bubble to decide if they should request the government for added capacity for churches.

“It depends on the bishops of the GCQ areas if they will make such a request,” said Malicdem, rector of the Manila Cathedral.

Travel restrictions

Meanwhile, the government is not inclined to expand travel restrictions to other countries despite the detection of the Indian variant in a Filipino worker coming from Belgium.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reported that the Department of Health (DOH) is tracing the close contacts of the Filipino seafarers who traveled to the United Arab Emirates prior to Belgium.

“UAE and Oman are included in the restrictions. No need to add other nations,” Vergeire said at a virtual briefing yesterday.

She stressed the need to strictly enforce the revised protocol to prevent Indian and other variants from coming in.

She said the DOH has secured the flight manifesto and is looking into the seating arrangements to identify the close contacts of the Filipino seafarer from Belgium.

“We are coordinating now with the Bureau of Quarantine so we can determine the close contacts of Case No. 12,” she noted.

The seafarer, Vergeire noted, has undergone the necessary isolation and quarantine protocol. “We can ensure that our kababayan won’t be contagious upon return to the local government unit,” Vergeire pointed out.

She said the nine Filipino crewmen of M/V Athens Bridge who tested positive for the Indian variant were also immediately isolated when the ship docked. Four of them with severe symptoms were taken to hospital.

Health experts are studying the cases of those OFWs to determine if the B1.617.2 strain causes severe symptoms compared to other variants.

She said one of those confined has been intubated while three are on oxygen support. “But the hospital said they are improving, they will be retested,” the health official added.

Genome sequencing

The DOH advised surveillance officers to submit more samples from areas with clustering of COVID for genome sequencing.

“Biosurveillance is working because we were able to detect in Tuguegarao for most recent sequencing of nine UK variant cases. This might explain why cases are increasing there,” Vergeire disclosed.

Calabarzon, Cagayan Valley, Soccsksargen and other regions with rising COVID cases were directed to submit more samples for genome sequencing, she said, to determine the reasons for the rising trend.

The situation in the so-called NCR Plus bubble has already improved, but Vergeire cautioned the people from becoming complacent.

She said the public must strictly comply with minimum health protocols now that community restriction has been downgraded.

The DOH logged additional 5,979 cases yesterday, bringing to 1,149,925 the total number of COVID cases nationwide.

Of the total cases, 93.6 percent or 1,076,428 have recovered. The figure included 6,602 newly reported recoveries.

Active cases stand at 54,235 which account for 4.7 percent of total cases.

An additional 72 deaths pushed to 1.68 percent or 19,262 the number of COVID-related fatalities. – Mayen Jaymalin

CHURCH GCQ
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