With loosening COVID-19 restrictions, the Catholic Church hopes the government will allow churches to admit half their capacity in worshippers, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said Sunday.

Church seeks 50% capacity, 100 percent under Level 2
HALLOWEEN SCENES. Father Reginald Malicdem blesses the urns of the deceased at the Manila Cathedral on Sunday, as cemetery visits have been suspended for All Saints Day to avoid public gatherings amid the pandemic. Norman Cruz

“I hope for a 50 percent capacity. If they will lower it to level 2, I hope they can allow 100 percent, but health protocols should be maintained,” said Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of CBCP Public Affairs Committee.

Metro Manila and seven other regions will be under COVID-19 Alert Level 3 from Nov. 1 to 14, which allows religious gatherings at a maximum of 30 percent venue capacity.

“But of course, that’s just our dream so people can be given the chance to enter the church and pray. At the end of the day, if the experts deem it otherwise, the Church will follow,” Secillano told ABS-CBN TeleRadyo.

The Philippines logged on Sunday 3,410 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 2,787,276, as all laboratories were operational while four labs were not able to submit their data on time, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.

Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism will offer RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests free of charge starting today—but the offer is only for domestic tourists.

A report on 24 Oras News Alert said that to avail of the offer, interested local tourists need to log on to the Tourism Promotions Board website https://www.tpb.gov.ph/ for the application requirements.

Also, only 350 applicants will be accommodated daily, the report noted.

Also, two senators warned the public not to be complacent following the continuing decline in COVID cases and reminded them to keep observing minimum safety protocols.

Sen. Sonny Angara said the public and the government as a whole should not let their guard down because there are still a lot of people getting infected, succumbing to the virus, and new variants of the virus continue to emerge.

“The public should continue observing the minimum safety protocols such as wearing face masks and to practice social distancing while outside of their homes even if they have already been vaccinated,” said Angara.

Until the number of COVID cases drops to zero, the government cannot claim success in its efforts to address the threat, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson stressed.

Lacson said the drop in cases in past weeks should not lull authorities into a false sense of security.

“We can claim success only if we have zero cases. As long as there are new cases, even one or two, we cannot do so. And we are still having new cases by the thousands),” he told DWIZ radio.

He noted that in other countries and territories, authorities call for meetings among government officials if there is even one new case.

While the supply of vaccines is increasing, Angara said the country still has a long way to go to vaccinate a majority of its population.

Angara renewed his appeal for the DOH and local government units to go the extra mile to encourage the citizenry to get vaccinated and to bring the vaccines directly to those who cannot go out such as the senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

“We support the call of our Vaccine Czar Sec. Charlie Galvez for LGUs to be more creative and flexible in its efforts to vaccinate its constituents. Many LGUs have successfully conducted house-to-house vaccinations to cater to the senior citizens and other eligible individuals. They could serve as models of best practices that the other LGUs could emulate,” Angara said.

Meanwhile, Lacson lamented there are still lapses being committed by the government and issues that have to be addressed—including lack of trust by the public for some vaccine brands.

In its latest report, the OCTA Research Group said the positivity rate in the National Capital Region has declined to five percent, the lowest rate since July 14.

The group noted that the World Health Organization considers a positivity rate of five percent or below as acceptable. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)

“It is encouraging to see a steady decline in the number of people getting infected with COVID-19 in the country. Hopefully this trend will continue, and we can open up more sectors of our economy faster,” Angara said.

As of October 25, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 reported that over 25 million Filipinos are already fully vaccinated, representing 33.65 percent of the country’s target to inoculate 70 percent of its population by year end.

The Philippines has received over 100 million doses of vaccines from various sources including COVAX and the donor countries.

The government is steadily easing its quarantine restrictions in the NCR and other regions, which would result in the opening up of more economic activities, particularly for the fully vaccinated individuals.

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