Essential work, religious gatherings still prohibited in GCQ – Roque

Nikko Dizon
Essential work, religious gatherings still prohibited in GCQ – Roque

(UPDATED) The government task force listens to the appeal of local governments to ban religious gatherings after it earlier allowed such activities in GCQ areas

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The coronavirus government task force took back its greenlight for religious gatherings and essential work meetings to take place under general community quarantine (GCQ).

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, in an ANC interview on Friday, May 1, said these activities are now prohibited even under GCQ.

“The IATF (Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) listened to the appeals of local officials to once again ban work gatherings and religious activities in areas covered by GCQ,” he said in Filipino.

Different religious groups, including Christian, Muslim, Protestant, and Iglesia ni Kristo leaders were consulted before this decision was made.

“They agree that we first have to protect the health of their faithful,” said Roque.

Only the other day, on April 30, Roque had announced omnibus quarantine guidelines that stated essential work gatherings and religious activities like mass, are allowed in GCQ as long as health safeguards are followed.

“Essential work gatherings and religious activities may continue so long as strict [physical] distancing – defined as the strict maintenance of at least two meters [of] distance between and among those attending – and the mandatory wearing of face mask, face shield, or other facial protective equipment by attendees, [are] maintained during the entirety of the event,” Roque said during his briefing Thursday.

Roque read this out as part of the Omnibus Guidelines for areas under GCQ.

Back when the IATF decided to allow small religious gatherings under GCQ, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had said that “mass gatherings” are still prohibited, but added they didn’t define a number of people that could be considered as mass.

“Kasi ‘pag sinabi mong sampu, magpipilosopo ‘yan, maggugrupo sila nang siyam. Ang importante dito ay distansiya, two meters at walang magkakasama at magkakatabi,” said Año.

(If you say [maximum of] 10, they would act smart and will group in 9s. So the important thing here is distance, two meters, and they shouldn’t be close to each other.) 

On Thursday, the taskforce had said areas under Enhanced Community Quarantine or ECQ, pastors, priests, imams, and other religious ministers may be allowed to move for the purposes of necrological or funeral rites.

“In this connection, immediate family members of the deceased from causes other than COVID-19 shall be allowed to move from their residences to attend the wake or interment of the deceased upon satisfactory proof of their relationship with the latter and social distancing measures,” said Roque.

It’s not clear if the taskforce has reconsidered the rule on wakes and burials. –


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Nikko Dizon

Nikko Dizon is a freelance journalist specializing in security and political reporting. She has extensively covered issues involving the military, the West Philippine Sea maritime dispute, human rights, and the peace process.