Filipinos told to celebrate Christmas at home, online to prevent spread of COVID-19

Filipinos have been advised to celebrate Christmas at home and online to prevent the continuing spread of the new coronavirus disease.

The Philippines’ Department of Health has instructed families to limit the number of people in family and social gatherings and activities, preferably limiting these activities to people within the same household.

Under general community quarantine measures, gatherings are allowed for only up to 10 people.

President Rodrigo Duterte this week announced that restrictions will remain in the capital region until the end of the year to prevent a post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases.

Authorities have encouraged people to continue wearing masks and face shields and observe social distancing in public.

Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the public affairs committee of the bishops’ conference, advised people to make use of technology to keep connected during Christmas.

“It’s the prudent thing to do in this time of pandemic,” said the priest.

He said that while gatherings can help people cope with the impacts of the pandemic, “the logistical needs and the potential risk of transmitting the virus shouldn’t be undermined.”

“Reunions can be done anytime of the year when the threat of the virus is gone,” said Father Secillano who is also parish priest of Manila’s Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro Parish.

On Dec. 1, the Philippines, which has the second-highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia, recorded 1,298 new confirmed cases.

A local research group said that COVID-19 cases in the country may reach a cumulative total of 470,000 to 500,000 by Dec. 31.

The Philippines, which ranks 44th in terms of active COVID-19 cases worldwide, clinched its first supply deal for a coronavirus vaccine last week, securing 2.6 million shots of a potential vaccine developed by AstraZeneca.

Five vaccine makers, including AstraZeneca, have applied to hold late-stage trials in the Philippines.

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