AS MOST Filipinos celebrated Palm Sunday to usher in this year’s Holy Week, the Department of Health (DOH) reminded the public to maintain physical distancing while praying together or reading the Bible as a measure against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the agency believed that Filipino families are creative enough to find ways to be spiritually together, yet physically apart, during the Holy Week.
“This Holy Week, even if we are physically apart, may we find a way for us to be spiritually together. Hindi po natin kailangan na maging (We don’t need to be physically close to be spiritually united,” Vergeire said during the daily virtual press conference on the Covid-19 outbreak Sunday.
She said families could still pray together or read the scriptures or Bible together while observing social distancing.
“Habang tayo ay nakapirmi sa ating mga tahanan ngayong mahal na araw, maging kahit ano pa man ang inyong pinaniniwalaang relihiyon, huwag nating kakalimutan na mag-practice ng physical distancing, lalo na kung may mga kasama po tayong matatanda o may sakit sa bahay,” Vergeire said.
The recommended distance between two persons is one meter. Disinfection of surfaces that are often touched at home is also advised, using a mixture of seven tablespoons or 100 ml of 0.5 percent bleach solution and one liter of water.
Vergeire noted that the last time Catholics and other Christians did not observe Holy Week in public was in 1945, during World War II.
Palm Sunday Masses, which mark the start of the Holy Week and commemorate Jesus Christ’s entrance to Jerusalem, were mostly live streamed from Catholic churches across the nation.
Instead of making crosses out of palm leaves, some Catholics used whatever leaves were available in their homes and held these up for the priests’ virtual blessing.
The Holy Week marks the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Normally, Catholics and other Christians mark the week with a visita iglesia, the practice of visiting seven churches, on Holy Thursday and doing the Way of the Cross on Good Friday. The week ends with Easter Sunday, which falls on April 12 this year.
Because of the Covid-19 outbreak, Filipinos are preparing to do the visita iglesia and Way of the Cross virtually.
Meanwhile, Vergeire reiterated the DOH’s call to stop discrimination or social stigma against infected individuals and exposed health workers.
“Nakikiusap po kami, huwag po nating hiyain ang mga taong may Covid-19. Lahat tayo ay maaring mahawa ng Covid-19 tulad ng ibang sakit. Wala itong sinisino. Wala po itong pinipili kung sino ang ma-e-exposed,” she said.
(We implore you, let us not shame those who have been found positive for Covid-19. All of us could contract the disease.)
“Hindi dapat ito maka-apekto sa pakikitungo natin sa ibang tao o gawing dahilan upang manakit ng iba,”
(This should not affect how we treat other people and should not be used as a reason to harm others.)
The social stigma against infected person could discourage those who are sick from disclosing their symptoms or seeking medical help.
Disclosure of full medical, travel and exposure history is mandated under the law. Some patients who failed to make such a disclosure ended up infecting their attending doctors and nurses.
The Philippines is under a state of public health emergency, state of calamity and state of national emergency because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The entire Luzon and several other areas in the country, including Cebu, have been placed on enhanced community quarantine.
Public transport systems have been suspended and most of the country’s 105 million population have been mandated to stay at home.
As of April 5, novel coronavirus (or Sars-CoV-2) infections in the Philippines have increased to 3,246 with 152 mortalities and 64 survivors.
Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has surged to 1.093 million persons as of April 5, with 58,620 mortalities, in 209 countries. (MVI/SunStar Philippines)