MANILA - Malacañang on Monday urged Black Nazarene devotees to self-isolate and observe themselves for possible symptoms of COVID-19 after taking part in the commemoration of the annual Traslacion at the Quiapo church in Manila on Saturday.
The Palace, along with the Department of Health, made the appeal after 400,000 people attended the religious event and failed to adhere to anti-coronavirus policies, even as authorities insisted that social distancing and health protocols must be strictly observed.
Officials and netizens expressed disappointment that the mass gathering was allowed, fearing that the event could be a potential super-spreader of COVID-19.
“Tapos na po siguro ang sisi, talaga naman pong napakadaming dumalo at talagang bagama’t pinagplanuhan po iyan ni Yorme (Manila Mayor Isko Moreno) ay talagang at some point ay nawala po ang social distancing,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a public briefing.
“Una, obserbahan ang sarili po ninyo para sa paglitaw ng kahit anong mga sumusunod na sintomas ng COVID-19."
Roque urged devotees to isolate themselves immediately and contact local authorities or village officials if they have symptoms of the deadly virus — like fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, sore throat, headache, joint and muscle pain, chills, nausea, nasal congestion, diarrhea, coughing up of blood or eye problems.
He also told attendees to avoid contact with elderly and vulnerable members of their families, and limit their movement as much as possible.
"Kung maaari, manatili sa hiwalay na silid,” Roque said.
Church and local government authorities suspended the traditional procession of the iconic Black Nazarene image, and strictly implemented limitations on the people allowed inside the Quiapo Church to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, member of the technical working group of the Department of Health (DOH), expressed concern the mass gathering could become a potential super-spreader event.
"Kung pumunta ka, well better talaga na mag-self-quarantine... but we know that's quite difficult. Siguro practical application is huwag na masyadong maggagala para mabawasan ang iyong potential contact," she told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
Lim said it is difficult to discount the possibility that someone infected with COVID-19 may have joined the religious event.
"Ngayon pa lang, magandang mag-ingat para kung may mangyari within the next 14 days, hindi tayo masyadong maraming idinadamay. Kung wala, eh 'di maganda," she said.