Philippines raises limits on attendance at religious services

 Philippine authorities on Tuesday raised the limit on attendance at religious services in the capital to 10 per cent of a venue’s capacity, up from just 10 people since June.

The new rules allow Catholic churches and other places of worship to be filled up to 10 per cent of their capacity in the Metro Manila region, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

The change in protocol coincides with the beginning of September, the unofficial start of the Christmas season in the Philippines, Asia’s largest predominantly Catholic country.

Catholic church leaders welcomed the increase in the number of devotees allowed inside churches, but also urged the government’s inter-agency coronavirus task force to consider further raising the limit on attendance.

“It’s really saddening to see only a few people inside when the church is so big,” said Father Douglas Badong of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, one the Philippines’ oldest churches.

Badong questioned why the government has allowed restaurants, shopping malls, gyms and cafes to operate at a higher capacity.

“In church, people will not be chatting to each other,” he said, adding: “People follow the health and safety protocols because that’s how great their spiritual need (is) to be in church.”

The Department of Health on Tuesday reported 3,483 additional coronavirus infections in the Philippines, bringing the country’s total caseload to 224,264.

The death toll rose by 39 to reach 3,597. 

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