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Govt Eases Restrictions for Churches Under GCQ

Religious gatherings in GCQ areas will now be allowed at 50 percent capacity.

Churches in areas under general community quarantine are now allowed to accommodate up to 50 percent of their capacity, the Malacañang announced. This new regulation has been effective since Monday, February 15.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has announced on Friday the easing of restrictions for religious gatherings. From the current limit of 30 percent capacity, churches in areas under the general community quarantine (GCQ) can now allow up to 50 percent of Mass attendees.

“Starting February 15, pinapayagan na po ang religious gatherings up to 50 percent of the seating or venue capacity,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Other businesses and establishments have also been allowed to expand if not resume, their operations under the eased regulations. (Read: Cinemas Remain Closed in Metro Manila After Mayors Intervene)

‘We Are Still Not Safe’

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Devotees observe physical distancing as they hear Mass along Quezon Boulevard in Quiapo, Manila on the feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9, 2021 (Photo from George Calvelo / ABS-CBN News)

Despite this recent announcement from the IATF, Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the public affairs committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), has urged the faithful to remain cautious amid the pandemic.

“We urged the public to still exercise caution as COVID-19 hasn’t been extinguished yet from our midst,” he said. “We are still not safe from this virus and its unpredictable nature makes it really a threat to everyone’s health.”

It can be recalled that earlier this month, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the apostolic administrator of the Manila Archdiocese, has asked the government to consider increasing the church capacity during Mass gatherings.

He made the statement after it was found that the recent Christmas holidays and Feast of the Black Nazarene celebrations recorded no spike in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila. (Read: DOH Advises Traslacion Attendees to Self-Quarantine)

“Churches are not (COVID-19) spreaders because the management of services is good,” he said. “What is important is to carry on in solidifying our efforts to end the pandemic through unity and self-discipline.”

General Community Quarantine

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People visit a mall in the Chinatown distirct in Binondo, Manila, February 12, 2020. (Photo from Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News)

As of writing, authorities have already allowed the opening of more businesses in areas under GCQ status, such as Metro Manila. Social events will also be permitted at a limited capacity and only at establishments that are accredited by the Department of Tourism.

The easing of restrictions comes in light of the government’s efforts to revive the Philippine economy from the impact of the pandemic.

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