THERE will be no Traslacion, or the procession of Black Nazarene’s image, in Metro Manila and other areas under Alert Level 3, as the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 approved Tuesday, January 4, the recommendation to suspend it and all other activities related to it.

Cabinet Secretary and Acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles also appealed to local government units (LGUs) to avoid holding other religious gatherings, such as the Sinulog Festival in Cebu and Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Nograles said Wednesday, January 5, that President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to the Catholic faithful during his Talk to the People Address Tuesday night, January 4, for their understanding, saying the suspension of such religious activities is being done to protect public health and interest.

"The Metro Manila Roman Catholics, you must understand that this is really not to intrude into your activities. But ang Roman Catholic kasi every year, nagkakaroon ng procession na Black Nazarene... I have to appeal to them for their understanding and to really look at it in the broader context of our liability also to the people if we do not act correctly or fail to come up with measures to protect public interest and public health," Duterte said.

Nograles said the Traslacion and other activities related to the Feast of the Black Nazarene this year are possible super-spreader events, considering that they attract thousands of people.

He said the NTF, in its Resolution 01, series of 2022, also ordered the closure of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo Church from January 7 to 9, 2022.

“No Holy Mass shall be physically conducted on these dates,” he said.

He added that all Holy Masses will be aired online nationwide.

The Manila Police District and Joint Task Force Coronavirus Shield were also directed to ensure the establishment of checkpoints and deployment of officers to discourage devotees from gathering in premises and coming in the Basilica.

The NTF designed Office of Civil Defense-National Capital Region (NCR) Director Romulo Cabantac as chief enforcer or implementer of relative Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and NTF resolutions or guidelines in relation to the Feast of Black Nazarene 2022 celebration.

Nograles clarified that this directive is specific only for the Feast of Black Nazarene celebration, stressing that under the IATF guidelines for areas under Alert Level 3, religious gatherings are allowed at 30 percent indoor capacity for vaccinated individuals.

He added that the 17 local government units (LGUs) are also expected to issue their respective ordinances with regard to limiting the movement of unvaccinated individuals while the NCR and other nearby provinces like Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal have been placed under Alert Level 3.

The Metro Manila Council, which is composed of 17 NCR mayors and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), issued on January 3, 2022, the MMDA Resolution 22-01, series of 2022, which urges LGUs in the region to issue ordinances barring the unvaccinated from going outside their homes.

The unvaccinated, minors and those belonging to the vulnerable population, however, have been allowed to go out but only to access and procure essential goods and services, as well as for outdoor exercises.

Nograles said the government saw the need to suspend the religious gatherings in NCR and limit the movement of unvaccinated individuals due to the increasing cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon.

The Philippines, as of January 5, has been classified as high risk for Covid-19.

“Based on metrics and parameters, any territory that will experience greater than 200 percent growth rate will be placed in high risk classification. In the entire country, although most of the cases we can see in NCR Plus, we are already at 448 percent growth rate in the recent two weeks,” said Nograles.

He also said that the hospital care utilization rate in the country and Metro Manila is increasing, with the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) utilization rate at 35 percent in NCR and 26 percent nationwide. The isolation beds in NCR are also 32 percent utilized.

He added that the IATF will not hesitate to elevate the alert level in NCR and other areas in the country if necessary.

“When we look at our decision metrics of alert level system, we look at the two-week growth rate, average daily attack rate and healthcare utilization rate. Doon po sa metrics na yan, makikita po natin kung anong alert level na dapat nating iclassify ang isang lugar... Kami sa IATF, we will not hesitate na kapag ang isang probinsya ay tumama doon sa mga parameters, then we will immediately escalate,” he said.

The government has been urging the public, especially the unvaccinated, to have themselves jabbed against Covid-19, saying vaccination is still the best protection against the disease.

As of January 5, the Philippines has administered a total of 110,089,619 Covid-19 vaccine doses nationwide. At least 65.63 percent or 50,627,196 individuals have been fully vaccinated, while 79.42 percent or 61,260,924 individuals have received their first dose.

The country has an average of 780,031 daily jabs, according to the National Covid-19 Dashboard.

“Vaccines are free and have been proven to be safe and effective. The numbers clearly show of how these can prevent serious cases of Covid-19, with 85 percent of Covid-19 patients in ICUs being unvaccinated,” said Nograles.

He assured that the country has sufficient supply of Covid-19 vaccines, stressing that some LGUs are now even offering booster shots even to non-residents. (SunStar Philippines)