By Benjie Cuaresma
File photo of churchgoers at the Manila Cathedral maintaining social distancing while attending a dawn mass. (Photo courtesy of the Manila Cathedral)
MANILA — With festivities and religious ceremonies, including the dawn masses or Misa de Gallo, authorities reiterated that the Christmas season is not an excuse to violate Covid-19 quarantine rules, warning the public, including churchgoers, that minimum health safety protocols should be strictly followed.
In an advisory, interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año reminded the citizenry that gatherings of over 10 people are not allowed because they are considered mass gatherings and are a violation of anti-pandemic rules set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
Guidelines issued in October prohibited large gatherings other than movie screenings, concerts, sporting events and other entertainment activities. Christmas parties are also considered as non-essential activities that remain a violation of pandemic protocols.
“We are warning those who will hold Christmas parties in restaurants, malls and other public places. This remains illegal and a violation of our quarantine protocols. Any gathering of more than 10 people outside (homes) will be considered a mass gathering,” Año announced.
he, however, clarified that family gatherings are still legal.
“It’s really the number. Restaurants should also be careful. Make sure you observe proper social distancing,” he added.
The interior secretary urged churchgoers to hold virtual Christmas parties instead to prevent further spread of the virus.
“If you can avoid face-to-face parties, please do so. Our people’s instinct at Christmas is to celebrate, go out, shop, buy gifts and gather. Every time people get close together, there’s a risk of infection,” he said.
His warning followed a health department report that showed Covid-19 infections had increased in the past two weeks due to activities related to the Yuletide holiday.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Lieutenant General Debold Menorias Sinas disclosed that the police have been directed to check restaurants and other venues for possible quarantine protocol violations.
“Solemn parties are allowed. If you hold a solemn celebration, eat together and observe social distancing in your home, then we will not disturb you,” Sinas said.
The PNP chief, however, assured churchgoers that police authorities would not barge into their residences unless they received complaints from the neighborhood and local authorities about possible violations.
“Our instruction is to disperse these mass gatherings and invite those responsible to the police precinct for questioning,” he stressed. (Source Union of Catholic Asian News)