The Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) devotees who would gather for the celebration of Feast of Black Nazarene could be “superspreader” of COVID-19.
“This can be a superspreader event because it will end up being a mass gathering, which is dangerous, especially since we’re still expecting a [postholiday] surge [in] cases,” Dr. Anna Ong-Lim of HPAAC said in a statement.
The Black Nazarene is a life-sized image of a dark-skinned, kneeling Jesus Christ carrying the Cross enshrined in the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in the Quiapo district the City of Manila, Philippines.
In October 2020, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno canceled the Black Nazarene’s annual grand procession, which was supposed to be on Saturday, January 9.
“The grand procession of the life-sized image of the Black Nazarene in January 2021 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic —Manila City gov’t, Quiapo Church,” said Manila Public Information Office in a Facebook post.
With the cancelation, the church decided to bring the image of the Black Nazarene to different churches and locations to reach more devotees.
Feast of Black Nazarene can be ‘superspreader’ of COVID-19 – HPAAC
However, Msgr. Hernando Coronel, Quiapo Church rector and parish priest said he was “still expecting an influx of devotees for the image viewing of the Black Nazarene,” which could increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Fifteen masses would be held on Saturday and would only accept 30 percent of its maximum capacity.
“If at all possible, please do not come anymore. Let us instead pray as one family in our own homes,” Coronel said in Filipino. The Department of Health (DOH) urged the devotees to follow the online Masses held hourly through the Quiapo Church’s Facebook page.
Health experts including DOH and HPAAC issued a statement on Thursday asking the public to “refrain from physically visiting” the church amid threats of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is also concern over the new UK variant [of the coronavirus],” Lim said in Filipino. Studies showed that the new COVID-19 strain was more infectious.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III renewed his call for the public to obey minimum public health standards to prevent COVID-19 during the Feast of Black Nazarene transmission.