Archdiocese of Manila cancels public activities, heeds urgent appeal of frontliners

Heeding "a distress signal to the nation" from the country's medical frontliners, the Archdiocese of Manila said Saturday night, August 1, that all churches under its jurisdiction will not hold public activities for over ten days.

"As a response to the call of our medical people, all the churches and shrines in the Archdiocese of Manila will revert to the period of ECQ protocols. We will not hold public religious activities from August 3 to 14 but we continue our online activities," said Bishop Broderick Pabillo, temporary head of the Archdiocese of Manila, in the pastoral instruction "We Hear the Call" issued late Saturday.

The Archdiocese of Manila covers the cities of Manila, Makati, Pasay, San Juan, and Mandaluyong.

Pabillo, himself positive for COVID-19, said the Church was aware of the economic burden posed by another hard lockdown on the metropolis and the surrounding areas.

"We all suffer from this pandemic economically. However, there are many families who are more badly impacted than others. So we appeal for generosity," said Pabillo's letter.

Earlier, the country's frontliners appealed to the government to impose a two-week enhanced community quarantine in Mega Manila to turn back what the group called was the country's "losing battle" to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

In the open letter supported by at least 80 medical groups, they asked for a lockdown in Mega Manila – Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, and Mimaropa – from August 1 to 15 so the government could improve its pandemic response.

"We are in a losing battle against COVID-19, and we need to come up with a consolidated plan. Hence, we, as frontliners dedicated to win the battle against COVID-19, call on our government to put Mega Manila back to Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) for a period of two weeks, from August 1 to 15," the medical community said.

From the government, Vice President Leni Robredo was among the first to respond to the medical community’s “distress call,” saying we "need to listen, so that we can start rising from this crisis.”

As of Saturday afternoon, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that the Philippines total COVID-19 caseload streaked to 98,232.

The 4,963 new infections tallied Saturday was the third straight time the single-day infection record was reset. There were previous highs of 4,063 on Friday, July 31 and 3,954 on Thursday, July 30.

Meanwhile, the Octa research group, composed of academics studying the coronavirus outbreak in the country, estimated that even if the prevailing quarantine restrictions will be implemented “strictly and effectively” infections nationwide may reach 150,000 cases by the end of August.

The warned that “less effective implementation of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) may lead to an additional 20,000 cases or more.”

Also on Saturday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that "Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea convened a meeting tonight, August 1, with key members of the Cabinet" on the issue of the appeal of the medical frontliners.

Roque said in a statement Saturday afternoon that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the government’s pandemic policy task force to consider an urgent plea from the country’s medical community.

Duterte “has heard the concerns of the medical community and the Chief Executive has directed the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to act on these concerns immediately,” Roque said.

Roque added: “The Palace considers our skilled, tireless and dedicated healthcare workers as important frontliners in the battle against COVID-19. We are grateful for their immense contributions to heal our people and our nation during these difficult times. Your voices have been heard. We cannot afford to let down our modern heroes. This is our commitment.” –