Nationwide closure of cemeteries mulled

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    BY GERARD NAVAL and NOEL TALACAY

    THE Department of Health yesterday said it was mulling recommending to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) the nationwide closure of all cemeteries and memorial parks during this year’s ‘Undas’ celebration.

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said: “When the time comes, we may make a similar recommendation so that it can be implemented across the country.”

    Vergeire said the DOH fully agrees with the objective of Metro Manila mayors which have decided to close all cemeteries and memorial parks in Metro Manila from October 28 to November 4 for the observance of the All Saints’ and Souls’ Days.

    “What the Metro Manila mayors did is actually a good practice. The mayors already announced their decision as early as now so that the relatives of those departed can already go to cemeteries in smaller batches,” said the health official.

    She noted how the observance of Undas in the country is tantamount to holding mass gatherings in cemeteries.

    Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) yesterday said burials and cremations will still be allowed even while cemeteries and memorial parks in Metro Manila are closed.

    MMDA general manager Jojo Garcia said the decision of the Metro Manila Council (MMC) to close all cemeteries and memorial parks for one week during the observance of the annual All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days excludes a prohibition against the continued operations of the facilities.

    The MMC on Sunday night said it would recommend to the IATF the closure of the facilities during this year’s Undas celebration as a critical strategy to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

    “What we are trying to avoid here is the mass gathering in the cemetery to celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day,” Garcia said.

    Garcia took note that mass gatherings in areas under general community quarantine are limited to 10 percent of the capacity of the venue where such gatherings are held.

    The closure of all cemeteries and memorial parks in Metro Manila during All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Days is a first in the country, where the annual celebration draws millions of people visiting the graves of their dead families and loved ones.

    Manila Mayor Isko Moreno was the first local executive to announce that all cemeteries and memorial parks in his jurisdiction will be closed during this year’s Undas to prevent another community outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

    Aside from Manila City, other areas that have made similar announcements were Marikina and Mandaluyong cities. On the other hand, San Juan City said it was imposing a ban this year on trick or treating and other Halloween festivities.