Mayor Duterte sees no need to tweak COVID-19 protocol in churches

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 January) – The existing measures to prevent the spread of the highly contagious and deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in churches in Davao City “is already sufficient,” Mayor Sara Duterte said Monday.

She made the pronouncement in response to the two-week lockdown imposed on St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Barangay Ma-a since January 2 after three priests and a seminarian contracted COVID-19.

During her live program over DCDR 87.5 or the Davao City Disaster Radio, the mayor said the local government will not add more health protocols in places of worship because the existing regulations “are sufficient to lessen the risk of transmission.”

“We don’t see the need to add to our minimum health protocols for churches because what has been implemented for them is very strict already… According to doctors, if there’s strict compliance, the risk of infection is lessened,” she said.

Duterte added that the local government requires churches to observe a two-meter distancing, as against the one-meter distancing in other places, on top of the basic health protocols such as the wearing of face masks, temperature and symptoms checking, and alcohol and handwashing stations.

She noted that churches in the city have banned singing, and are prohibited from using electric fans to avoid droplets of saliva from wafting across the venue, which will increase the risk of infection among churchgoers.

According to Resolution 80 of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases issued on October 22, 2020, religious gatherings in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) shall be allowed up to 30% of the seating or venue capacity.

Amid the rising COVID-19 cases, the city reverted to GCQ from modified GCQ last November 20. The GCQ has been extended until January 31, 2021.

As of January 10, the Department of Health (DOH)-Davao Region recorded 13,927 total COVID-19 cases, with 2,132 active, 11,227 recoveries and 568 deaths.

Of the total cases, Davao City reported 9,693, Davao de Oro with 675, Davao del Norte with 1,827, Davao del Sur with 1,016, Davao Occidental with 132 and Davao Oriental with 584.