The Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday advised devotees who attended the Black Nazarene Feast in Quiapo, Manila, on Saturday to isolate themselves should symptoms appear.
“If you attended the celebration, when you have symptoms after three to five days, you must report to the quarantine facility in the barangay,” Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said in Filipino in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.
“Devotees who went to the Traslacion yesterday, their health must be checked," he added.
Vega said the DOH took note of the fact that in some areas near Quiapo Church, social distancing was not observed by devotees.
Quiapo Church officials, however, said the devotees who flocked to the church on Saturday for the Black Nazarene Feast did their best to follow protocols set amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s not the intention of the devotees to violate [the rules]. They were not really close to each other," he added, despite photos of the event showing devotees packed together.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) acting director Brigadier General Vicente Danao Jr. on Saturday said the Feast of the Black Nazarene was generally peaceful.
However, he said that as devotees continued to arrive, the one-meter social distancing rule was barely being followed.
The OCTA Research team said this year's Black Nazarene feast, albeit without the Traslacion or the annual procession of the life-sized image of the dark-skinned Jesus Christ carrying the cross, was a "superspreader" event amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Estimates by police of the number of attendees on Saturday was around 400,000.
Asked whether or not the Feast of the Black Nazarene is a “super-spreader” event, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, “We won’t know until cases are identified and analyzed.”
Manila Police District director Police Brig. Gen. Leo Francisco said minimum health protocols like wearing of face masks, face shields and social distancing were observed, even as photos from the event posted on social media showed otherwise.
The MPD, along with the National Capital Region Police Office and the Philippine National Police in are now preparing for another religious event in Manila, the Feast of Sto. Niño in Tondo, which also takes place in January.