IATF closes cemeteries from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4
(The Freeman) - September 19, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  To avoid the influx of people visiting the tombs of their departed loved ones on All Souls’ Day and All Saints' Day next month, the government has ordered the mandatory closure of all cemeteries and columbaria in the country from October 29 to November 4.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases issued Resolution No. 71, which in effect prevents the public from the traditional observance of All Souls and All Saints’ Day due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“All private and public cemeteries, and memorial parks, including columbariums and the like throughout the country shall be closed to visitors from October 29 to Nov. 4,” the IATF said in its order signed by Health Sec. Francisco Duque III and Cabinet Sec. Karlo Alexei Nograles, co-chairpersons of the task force.

“Provided, that, the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine shall continue to govern burial and cremation activities during the said period,” it added.

However, the IATF is waiving the age limitations for the visits in both public and private cemeteries as well as columbarium from September 15 to November 15, except on the prohibited dates.

To give the public appropriate time to observe the annual tradition that brings families to cemeteries, the IATF issued guidelines for visits that cover enforcement and following of health standards.

The number of visitors allowed is 30 percent maximum of the capacity of the venue.

“The number of visitors shall be limited to a maximum of 30 percent of the venue capacity, with the wearing of face masks and face shields, and the observance of social distancing,” the IATF said.

Earlier, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella also issued an executive order closing all public and private cemeteries in the city from October 29 to November 4.

The order was also in line with the government’s continued efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Rapid antigen tests

Meanwhile, Rapid Antigen Tests (Ag-PDTs) may now be used for border screening and serial testing for movements of people from high-risk to low risk areas with different quarantine classifications.

Under IATF Resolution No. 71, the task force has allowed the start of the pilot studies on the use of Ag-PDTs for border screening and serial testing in high-risk to low-risk interzonal travel considering cross-border differences in quarantine status and the prevalence level of transmission.

The antigen tests may also be applied for use during specialized programs for the Department of Tourism.

The IATF came out with the resolution following the recommendations of the Department of Health Technical Advisory Group, in coordination with the DOT and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Officials said they also consulted the World Health Organization for the use of the antigen tests by the general population.

In its previous resolutions, the IATF has allowed the use of antigen test kits for domestic air travel for tourism based on the proposal of the Department of Transportation last week.

For this purpose, the IATF has directed the DOH to incorporate the “suppletory use of antigen testing for all domestic travel.”

However, the IATF has maintained that the Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) remains the gold standard for confirmatory testing.   But it also allowed the use of antigen test as “a substitute for RT-PCR, based on DOH guidelines.”

The antigen test is required as a “pre-boarding requirement” for asymptomatic domestic tourists before departure and travel to tourism destinations or as a requirement upon entry at the place of destination in accordance with the protocols set by the local government unit. — Philippine Star News Service, FPL (FREEMAN)

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