Cebu City’s Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño remains closed amid GCQ
CEBU CITY – The most prominent Catholic church here remains closed to the public even as the Queen City of the South has shifted to the less stringent general community quarantine (GCQ) last June 1.
At least seven priests and nine employees of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño has been isolated inside its convent due to “suspected cases” of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In his homily during a Mass streamed on their social media page on Sunday, June 7, Fr. Andres Rivera Jr., OSA, head of the Augustinian priests who manage the basilica, said they were still waiting for the results of their swab test from the Cebu City Health Department.
“The church shall remain off-limits to the public while we wait for the test results,” he said.
Rivera appealed to the people to bear with the inconveniences caused by the restrictions implemented to stop the spread of the COVID-19.
“We approach the situation with patience. All of us are adjusting,” he said.
In an earlier advisory, Rivera said the probable cases of COVID-19 inside the basilica were detected last May 25.
“We have already conducted a swab test to all friars and personnel staying at the convent through the help of the Cebu City Health Department. While waiting for the test results, all friars and personnel are being quarantined within the basilica convent,” he said.
Rivera said they were in constant coordination with city health officials as well as with officers of Barangay Santo Niño to address the matter.
“With their help and guidance, we ensure the public that everything is properly managed and there shall be no cause for further alarm and distress,” he said.
The first suspected case, the priest said, involved a church employee who went to the market to buy food and other basic necessities for the priests and other employees in the convent.
“The employee had cough and fever,” Rivera said.
He said the employee was admitted to a hospital but was recovering from the condition.
“Let’s pray that every one of us here will turn out negative of the virus,” Rivera said.
Fr. Aladdin Luzon, OSA, said the two primary contacts of the first suspected case had been quarantined in separate rooms inside the basilica convent. Seven others were considered as secondary contacts and were also quarantined.
The centuries-old basilica, he said, will remain closed to the public until further notice. The faithful were advised to take part in online Masses through the basilica’s official Facebook page.
The basilica is the home of the image of the child Jesus which was given as a gift by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu’s Queen Juana during the first Catholic baptism in the Philippines in 1521.
“We put our trust in the risen Lord and ask our beloved Señor Santo Niño de Cebu to strengthen us in this fight against the COVID-19 while mindfully following all the directives and guidelines from our medical experts and government leaders,” Rivera said.
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