More people will now be able to visit churches after the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases allowed religious gatherings in areas under the general community quarantine (GCQ) of up to 30 percent of the seating or venue capacity.

quiapo - IATF allows religious gathering of up to 30% capacity in GCQ areas
(Quiapo Church / Facebook / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

In an interview with State-run PTV-4, presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced that the IATF made the decision to allow Filipinos to celebrate Christmas during the pandemic.

“Wala na kasi tayong Undas, sarado ang ating mga sementeryo, tapos marami na rin tayong nakansela (We are not able to observe All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days, the cemeteries are closed, and there were a lot of events canceled),” he said Friday.

“Siguro naman kahit papano magkaroon naman tayo ng pagpapatuloy ng ating mga Christmas traditions bagamat 30 percent lang po ang ating pupuwedeng Simbang Gabi (Perhaps we can proceed with our Christmas traditions even though only 30 percent are allowed during the dawn masses),” he added.

The Palace official added that the decision to ease the restrictions on religious gatherings was also reasonable following the consistently low number of COVID-19 cases reported daily this past week.

“Dahil ang mga Pilipino naman po ay sumusunod sa ating Presidente na nagmamask, naghuhugas, at nagiiwas, nakikita naman po natin na bumubuti kasi ang numero (Because a lot of Filipinos are following President Duterte’s appeal to wear a mask, wash their hands, and practice physical distancing, the numbers are getting better),” Roque said.

He added that the recommendation of Metro Manila mayors to increase the number of people allowed for religious gatherings helped the IATF reach the decision.

“Nandiyan na rin ang katotohanan na ang mga Metro Manila mayors po ay nag-agree na rin na ang curfew pagdating ng a-uno ng Disyembre ay gagawing 12-3 para tayo ay makapag-Simbang Gabi (There’s also the fact that Metro Manila mayors agreed to shorten the curfew hours from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. beginning Dec. 1 so people can attend the Simbang Gabi),” he said.

Metro Manila mayors have agreed to shorten the curfew hours in the region from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. to 12 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting Dec. 1 to accommodate those who will attend the Simbang Gabi.

While Malacañang welcomed the decision of the local chief executives, he said the IATF will have to make the decision.

The Simbang Gabi is the traditional nine-day novena of masses that starts on Dec. 16 and culminates with the “Misa de Gallo” on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve.

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