Philippines Cancel ‘Black Nazarene’ Parade Again Over COVID-19 Concerns



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A man sprinkles holy water with Catholic worshipers attending a Mass on the Feast of the Black Nazarene in front of Quiapo Church in Manila, the Philippines on January 9, 2021. REUTERS / Lisa Marie David

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MANILA, Jan. 5 (Reuters) – Authorities in the Philippines have canceled an annual procession, which normally attracts millions of Catholic worshipers accompanying a black wooden statue of Jesus Christ through the streets of Manila, for the second year in a row due to problems coronavirus.

The government’s coronavirus task force canceled the “Black Nazerene” procession, which is one of the nation’s largest religious holidays, before celebrations related to the January 9 procession began on Friday due to the increase in COVID-19 infections.

Unlike last year, there will be no in-person masses in the church housing the centuries-old statue, and police will be deployed to discourage people from gathering outside the building, said authorities.

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“We understand (the cancellation) for our safety and health reasons,” Father Douglas Badong, parish vicar of Quiapo Church, told a press conference. He said physical masses will be held in other provinces and online masses for worshipers in the capital.

In previous years, worshipers dressed in yellow and brown have invaded the life-size tatute as it marched through the streets of Manila in a rope cart.

The Department of Health on Wednesday reported 10,775 new cases of COVID-19, the highest daily peak since October 10, and more than 60 times the 168 cases recorded on December 21.

The tally, which was nearly double the day before, brought the total number of cases to over 2.86 million and deaths to over 51,600, the second highest number of COVID-19 infections and victims in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.

Acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles urged areas outside the capital region to step up vaccinations amid the threat of the Omicron variant which had already prompted the government to tighten restrictions this week.

“The numbers clearly show that these can prevent severe cases of COVID,” Nograles said in a statement.

The Philippines has so far detected 14 domestic and imported cases of the highly contagious variant of Omicron which has increased the number of COVID-19 cases and dampened New Years celebrations across much of the world.

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Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales Editing by Ed Davies

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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