MANILA — A member of President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet said on Wednesday there might be no need to change COVID-19 protocols that Catholics observed to mark last year's Ash Wednesday.
“Kung ano iyong ginagawa natin noon, hopefully, tingin ko, iyon pa rin ang maging protocols ngayon,” said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.
(What we did previously, hopefully, I think that will still be our protocol.)
Ash from blessed palm leaves mixed with water are often placed on the forehead of Catholics for the event that opens Lent, a 40-day season marked by intense prayer, fasting, and abstinence.
Last year, clergymen sprinkled dry dust on worshipers to keep wider distance and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Nograles said in an interview on the government's television network that officials might meet with Church leaders to finalize this year's protocol.
“Baka kailangan mapag-usapan muli kasi kumbaga, wala namang nagbago in terms of the health and safety protocols since last year. Iniiwasan pa rin natin na magkahawaan, ‘di po ba? At hindi pa naman fully vaccinated iyong buong population. So kumbaga, the same rule should apply this year,” he said.
(We might need to talk about this again because nothing changed in terms of the health and safety protocols since last year. We are still preventing transmission, right? And not the entire population has been vaccinated.)
Churches in areas under modified general community quarantine, the least stringent of 4 lockdown levels, are allowed to fill up 50 percent of their seating capacity. In areas under GCQ, the third strictest level, churches can accommodate up to 30 percent, said Nograles.
Predominantly Catholic, the Philippines is celebrating 500th anniversary of the arrival of the religion this year.
The Philippines has tallied some 540,000 coronavirus infections, among the highest in Asia. The country is set to launch its COVID-19 vaccination drive this month, behind some of its regional peers.
Video courtesy of PTV