7 priests, 10 employees of Sto. Niño Basilica suspected virus carriers
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines — The centuries-old and most prominent Catholic church here remains closed to the public even as other churches have reopened, though with a limited number of worshipers, as the city shifted to a less stringent general community quarantine on June 1.
The Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu shutdown continues after at least seven priests and nine employees were isolated inside its convent on suspicion of being infected by the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The first suspected case, also a church employee, is now confined in the hospital.
In his homily during a Mass streamed on the Basilica’s social media page on Sunday, Fr. Andres Rivera Jr. said they were still waiting for the results of swab tests from the city health department. In the meantime, he said, “the church shall remain off-limits to the public.”
Rivera, head of the Augustinian priests who operate the basilica, appealed to the people to bear with the inconveniences caused by the restrictions meant to stop the spread of 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 church were detected on May 25.
“We have already conducted swab tests on all friars and personnel staying at the convent through the help of the city health department. While waiting for the test results, all friars and personnel are being quarantined within the basilica convent,” he said.
Rivera said the Church was in constant coordination with city health officials and officers of Barangay Sto. Niño. “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.
According to him, the church employee first suspected to have the virus “had cough and fever” after going to the market to buy food.
Two primary contacts of the employee are now in quarantine in separate rooms inside the convent, while seven other secondary contacts are in isolation, said Fr. Aladdin Luzon.
While the basilica, the home of the Child Jesus, is closed, the faithful were advised to hear online Masses on its Facebook page.
Before the national health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic prohibited religious gatherings and the holding of Masses, hundreds of Sto. Niño devotees would visit the basilica on a daily basis.
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