DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 6 Jan) – Those who attended Holy Masses at the St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Barangay Ma-a here from December 22 until January 1 have been encouraged to get themselves tested for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after three priests and a seminarian tested positive for the infection.

The empty pews of the St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Ma-a, Davao City during the early days of the lockdowns in March 2020. Photo from the Parish’s Facebook page

Ashley Lopez, Davao City Health COVID-19 focal person, said in his radio program over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Wednesday that 18 identified close contacts were swabbed last Monday, and are awaiting results of their reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

He said there is an ongoing effort to contract-trace individuals who came to hear Holy Masses within this period.

“Those who attended Holy Masses or visited the church, and you think you were quite close or had exposure to the confirmed cases, you can go to the nearest swab centers so that you could be tested,” Lopez added.

The parish suspended its operations, including all liturgical celebrations, effective January 2 after the local government placed the church under a two-week lockdown.

Majority of the COVID-19 cases reported recently came from workplaces and parishes, according to Lopez.

He noted that Christians, Catholics especially, attend church services during Christmas and New Year’s Day. “We have several parishes and seminaries with reported cases, including seminarians and lay workers,” he said.

According to Resolution No. 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 5, the Department of Health (DOH)-Davao Region recorded 12,985 total COVID-19 cases, with 1,530 active, 10,920 recoveries and 535 deaths.

Of the total cases, Davao City reported 9,107, Davao de Oro with 615, Davao del Norte with 1,640, Davao del Sur with 931, Davao Occidental with 127, and Davao Oriental with 565.

Lopez also encouraged establishments to strictly enforce basic health protocols to minimize transmission of COVID-19 in workplaces.

The increase in the number of cases in the workplaces such as banks, manufacturing companies, and business process outsourcing firms, was blamed on poor ventilation and failure to observe the health protocols. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)

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