PH keeps restrictions on religious mass gatherings despite easing of lockdowns

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2020 01:25 PM | Updated as of Jun 02 2020 02:01 PM

Youth volunteers put marks reminding people to observe physical distancing at San Agustin Church in Manila. Czar Dancel, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA- Religious mass gatherings will remain prohibited in the Philippines despite the easing of community quarantine restrictions across the country, Malacañang said Tuesday.

The government's pandemic task force has decided to continue to ban mass gatherings for religious purposes following a consultation with stakeholders, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.

"Nagkaroon po ng desisyon na hindi muna papayagan ang mass gatherings for religious purposes. I cannot say when mapapayagan po 'yan pero titingnan po natin ang datos," he said in a Palace press briefing.

(There was a decision to continue to prohibit mass gatherings for religious purposes. I cannot say when it will be allowed but we will check the data)

Roque said officials would check the COVID-19 case doubling rate in different areas as well as the capacity of localities to provide critical healthcare in reviewing the ban on mass gatherings for religious purposes.

The capital region transitioned on Monday to a general community quarantine from a modified enhanced community quarantine as the government sought to revive the economy that saw a contraction for the first time in 22 years.

Other areas that transitioned to GCQ are Pangasinan province, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Central Visayas, Davao City, and Zamboanga City.

The rest of the country meanwhile, shifted to a modified GCQ, the transition point to the "new normal" where community quarantine protocols would be fully lifted.

Last month, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo slammed as "unreasonable" government's limitations on religious gatherings in terms of the number of persons allowed.

He said the government should have instead recommended 1 to 2 meters of physical distancing between individuals inside churches.

Under the government's guidelines on the implementation of community quarantines, religious gatherings in modified enhanced community quarantine areas are highly restricted to 5 people.

In areas placed under general community quarantine, participants should not be more than 10 people.

Minimum health standards such as physical distancing and the wearing of face masks are also required.