Experts warn of spike in COVID-19 cases after Feast of Black Nazarene

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 9) — Experts are warning the public of a possible surge in coronavirus cases after thousands of devotees flocked to Quiapo church on Saturday for the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

In a tweet on Saturday, Dr. Tony Leachon, former adviser to the COVID-19 Task Force, said that he is “afraid” that a surge will lead to a stricter quarantine measure.

READ: Hundreds of thousands of Black Nazarene devotees flock to Quiapo Church

“I’m sorry. We know that social distancing violations will lead to increased number of cases. Our faith is not proven by physical presence only,” he said on the celebration.

“God will not look over for our attendance on this once a year event but for scars of sacrifice & love of humanity.”

Department of Health adviser Dr. Edsel Salvana earlier appealed to devotees not to attend physical masses at Quiapo Church.

READ: Hundreds of thousands of Black Nazarene devotees flock to Quiapo Church

“We're really going to need a miracle to stop a superspreader event in Quiapo right now. Please don't go. Aren't we supposed to watch out for each other? Putting others at risk is about as un-Christian as it gets,” Salvana tweeted.

DOH also released a statement on Saturday, advising those who have attended the physical masses to minimize their interactions, especially with the vulnerable members of their household, and to conduct active self-monitoring for any symptoms.

The number of faithfuls in Quiapo for the Feast of the Black Nazarene has grown to a cumulative 400,000 as of 9:30 a.m., according to an estimate by Manila Police chief Leo Francisco. Francisco said the figure may reach a million by the end of the day. Meanwhile, the Manila government reported that around 10,690 devotees were at the area at 2 p.m.

Quiapo Church officials said onsite attendance is limited to 400 devotees per mass. It also urged worshippers to follow health protocols and fill out the contact tracing forms.