MANILA - The Department of Trade and Industry on Tuesday expressed support for the pandemic task force's decision to ban religious gatherings in Metro Manila and 4 neighboring provinces for 2 weeks due to increasing coronavirus infections.
Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said attending Mass in person was considered a mass gathering, which is prohibited under Resolution No. 104 by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
"It can't be compared to gyms, fitness centers. In fitness centers, you are required to observe 1-meter physical distancing from the next person, from whoever inside," she told reporters in a press briefing.
"In the church, you can observe physical distancing but when you start singing, there's saliva involved. It can be released, and you don't know what's going to happen."
Castelo was reacting to a remark from a senior church official noting how public worship was banned from March 22 to April 4 while personal care services, including spas, are allowed to operate at 50-percent capacity.
Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, on Monday expressed dismay about the government's latest anti-virus curbs. This coincides with Holy Week, the most important week on the Christian liturgical calendar.
"In spite of our adherence to strict protocol you lock down our churches during the holiest time of the year and allow 70 percent capacity in fitness centers and 50 percent in establishments for personal care services, including spas?!!! All right. May god have mercy on your souls!" he wrote on Facebook.
But Castelo stressed that for gyms, group sessions were prohibited.
"Only individual exercises, only individual equipment can be used one person at a time," she said.
Castelo instead urged the faithful to temporarily observe religious activities within the comforts of their homes.
"This is not just because we want to. This is not whimsical, definitely. This is for the good of everybody. So, as a religious organization, I would think they would also support this move because it's for the general welfare," she said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the capital region, and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal under general community quarantine for 2 weeks to quash fresh COVID-19 cases.