The Duterte government today ordered the closure of all cemeteries and columbariums in the entire country from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque encouraged the public to visit the tombs of their families before or after the closure. He said the decision was made based on the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), the body managing the Philippines’ pandemic response.
“[The closure was done] to avoid public gatherings which usually occurs during All Saints’ Day. This was done because there is still a pandemic, and we all know how COVID-19 easily spreads during reunions, which is why the IATF has forbidden visiting cemeteries from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4,” Roque said in English and Filipino a media briefing in Baguio City.
Roque added that cemeteries and columbariums are allowed to accommodate only up to 30% of its maximum capacity to ensure the visitors’ safety.
Prior to this announcement, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno had ordered the closure of all cemeteries in his city from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3 to prevent mass gatherings.
Filipinos celebrate All Saints’ Day by visiting the tombs of their dead relatives, and these occasions usually serve as reunion parties with other family members and friends. Such gatherings often attract thousands of people in cemeteries, who often leave tons of trash behind.
The Philippines has the most number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with 276,289 cases as of today, including 4,785 deaths and 208,096 recoveries.
This article, Malacañang orders closure of all cemeteries, columbariums from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.