Concerns on physical distancing surfaced when photos of Filipinos flocking outside the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila for the first Friday Mass went viral.
Majority of the devotees of the Black Nazarene or the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno stationed themselves outside the church’s premises on Friday morning since it can only accommodate up to 10% of the pews’ seating capacity, based on the government’s guidelines.
Catholic faithfuls go to churches or chapels every first Friday of the month to take part in the Sacred Heart devotions obliging them to hear mass and receive the Holy Communion for nine months with the intention to honor Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
Meanwhile, pictures of the scenes outside the minor basilica were shared by different field reporters of local media outlets where devotees were seen flocking the sides and outside spaces of the church to observe the tradition.
Only 100 people are allowed inside in observance of the health and safety protocols established by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A large crowd gathers at the Plaza Miranda to celebrate the first Friday mass outside the Minor Basilica of the Black…
While social distancing was ensured inside the church, it wasn’t thoroughly practiced outside despite church officials reportedly doing their “best” to enforce the minimum health standard, according to ABS-CBN News.
A large crowd attended mass outside the Quiapo Church today, also the first Friday of the month. Officials of the church try their best to enforce physical distancing even outside and around the premises @ABSCBNNews pic.twitter.com/KsnkV8rUFQ
— Jervis Manahan (@JervisManahan) September 3, 2020
The pictures concerned social media users who used the opportunity to remind their fellow Filipinos about constantly maintaining distance from each other amid the pandemic.
“Anoooo baaaa, always practice social distancing,” commented a Twitter user with crying emojis in response to the photos.
Another online user who claimed to be on the area “last Sunday” lamented the supposed lack of physical distancing among the public and commented that the crowds were at “pre-pandemic levels.”
“People, if we believe the same God, that God is OMNIPRESENT.
He can hear you even if you pray at home. Please. I was parked here last Sunday. Walang physical distancing, lalo na sa mga tiangge sa labas. Pre-pandemic levels ang siksikan,” he wrote with a pensive emoji.
“Bakit naman ganoon. Observe naman sana tayo ng social distancing and safety measures. Pray responsibly,” commented another Filipino.
A Twitter user suggested that some devotees could just pray in the safety of their own homes.
This was echoed by another online user claiming to be a devotee who said that the Black Nazarene would “understand” if people cannot flock in its holy presence due to the current circumstances.
“I am a devotee of NPJN. However, I am certain that the Nazareno would understand why we can’t flock to be in His Holy Presence right now,” she wrote.
Apart from the limited church capacity, the traditional “Pahalik” or the kissing or touching of the dark-skinned statue of Jesus, the Black Nazarene, was also suspended.
It was instead replaced by “Pagtanaw” where the faithful are instead given the chance to pray in front of the fenced venerated image.
Importance of distancing
The Department of Health advised the public to stay at least one meter away from each other in the public, which is nearly equivalent to a motorcycle’s length, as a means to prevent possible viral infection.
However, it also highly recommends the public to maintain a physical distance of two to three meters away for maximum protection.
COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets that are emitted through talking, coughing and sneezing. It is also airborne in enclosed indoor settings with poor ventilation.
Strictly practicing physical distancing measures is one of the means in mitigating the spread of the pathogen which has a high transmission rate.
Experts said that observing such a preventive measure is crucial for “flattening the curve” or significantly reducing the number of infections in a community so that the health care system wouldn’t be burdened.
Malacañang previously said that maintaining physical distance in the public will be a huge part of the “new normal” while a vaccine is not yet available against the viral disease.