Ban on religious gatherings still up for gov’t review
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases will review its decision to “conditionally allow” religious gatherings in parts of the country under general community quarantine, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Thursday.
Roque said he was “deluged” with complaints from local officials, who warned that allowing religious gatherings might lead to further spread of the new coronavirus.
“They said the previous precautions against [the coronavirus] will be useless if we will allow religious gatherings now. The State cannot enter churches and mosques to make sure that people are observing physical distancing … Another mayor told me that in this time of Ramadan, it’s impossible to keep people apart if we allow gatherings,” Roque said in a television interview on Thursday night.
“We will not be deaf to these protests. I deemed it best to refer this issue again to the [task force] because there will be a [task force] meeting [on Friday] anyway,” he said.
Roque appealed to religious leaders not to hold Masses and other services until the task force has made a final decision.
The task force earlier released guidelines for areas with “low to moderate risk” for coronavirus infection.
Mass gatherings prohibitedMass gatherings are still prohibited in those areas, Roque said earlier on Thursday.
In the guidelines, the task force said “minimum public health standards” should be complied with at all times during the quarantine.
The movement of the population will be limited to accessing essential goods and services and for work in offices and industries allowed to operate.
As for public transportation, the road, rail, maritime and aviation sectors will operate at reduced capacity in accordance with guidelines of the Department of Transportation. Earlier, the task force said operations of certain sectors or industries could resume at full or partial capacity, except amusement, gaming, fitness, kids and tourism.
Shopping malls will be allowed to partially operate, with leisure establishments and services in their premises remaining closed. The Department of Trade and Industry may issue guidelines to limit foot traffic in shopping centers, the task force said. Work in government offices may resume at full capacity or under alternative work arrangements in accordance with rules and regulations of the Civil Service Commission.
In addition, essential public and private construction projects such as sewerage, water services, digital works, health centers and priority projects will be allowed to operate in accordance with guidelines to be issued by the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Hotels and accommodation establishments will not be allowed to operate, except those with foreign guests who have bookings as of May 1; guests with long-term bookings; those with distressed overseas Filipino workers, stranded Filipinos or foreign nationals; those with repatriated Filipino migrants complying with quarantine requirements; nonmigrants required to undergo quarantine; and health-care workers and other employees from businesses exempted from the quarantine.
The task force also said classes in lower schools would remain suspended, but higher education institutions could hold classes through flexible learning arrangements to finish the school year. These schools may operate on a limited capacity to receive students’ requirements and issue credentials to students.
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