Drive-by blessings in virus-hit Philippines

Priests delivered blessings from the back of trucks and motorised tricycles in the Philippine Sunday, adapting the deeply Catholic nation's traditions to the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

A Roman Catholic priest riding on a tricycle and wearing a face mask blesses the faithfuls holding coconut leaves during Palm Sunday event in Borongan town, Eastern Samar province, central Philippines on April 5, 2020, as part of the Easter observance. Church authorities have asked the catholic faithfuls not to go to churches for the Palm Sunday blessing, but instead to stay in front of their houses as priests will go around their communities for the blessing, to observe social distancing as part of the government efforts to combat COVID 19 pandemic. Alren BERONIO / AFP
Locals lined up in front of their homes in a district of Manila, which is entering its fourth week of a lockdown that has brought the frenetic metropolis nearly to a halt.

The priests made signs of the cross as they rolled past waving residents marking Palm Sunday, the start of the week that culminates with the observance of Easter.

"This celebration will continue despite the spread of the virus," said Bong Sosa, who attended wearing a mask crafted from a water cooler bottle.

The blessings come as the Philippines recorded a total of 144deaths and 3,094 confirmed virus cases, numbers that are expected to keep rising as the nation ramps up testing. 

Roman Catholic faithfuls holding plant leaves observe social distancing as they wait for a priest for blessing during Palm Sunday event in Manila on April 5, 2020, as part of the Easter observance.  Ted ALJIBE / AFP
The quarantine that has shuttered schools and businesses and halted all social and religious events across most of the nation will likely be extended beyond mid-April, authorities have said. 

Easter is a major holiday in the Philippines when millions typically return to their family homes outside the capital, but heavy restrictions on movement will disrupt those trips this year. 

Bans on large public events will also mean that typically thronged churches will be empty save for priests performing mass that will be live-streamed into tens of millions of homes.

© Agence France-Presse

Topics: COVID-19 , Coronavirus , Philippines , Palm Sunday
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