MANILA Mayor Isko Moreno has cancelled this year’s “Undas” get-together of family and friends as he ordered the temporary closure of all public cemeteries, private memorial parks and columbaries in the city of Manila as a strategic tactic to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“I have already signed Executive Order 38 that starting October 31 to November 3, we will temporarily close our cemeteries and memorial parks,” Moreno announced on the official Facebook page of the city government of Manila.
Moreno said: “Hindi na po nalalayo na gugunitain at bibisitahin natin ang ating mga mahal sa buhay na nakahimlay sa ating mga libingan kasi isa ito sa ating mga tradisyon pero sa nakalipas na mga buwan nakita natin ang epekto ng pandemya. Kaya ngayon pa lang humihingi ako ng paumanhin at pang uunawa sa inyo sa desisyong ito (It will not be long before we visited our departed loved ones since it’s one of our yearly traditions but in the past few months, we have all seen the effects of this pandemic. That’s why this early, I am asking for your understanding of this decision).”
Moreno said city officials have anticipated the large crowds in cemeteries and memorial parks who will visit their dead loved ones during the Undas season, a gathering that could lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Manila if it is not be stopped.
He noted that during last year’s commemoration, an estimated 1.5 million people visited the Manila North Cemetery, while more than 800,000 trooped to the Manila South Cemetery.
2019 records showed that there are 105,837 people buried at the Manila North Cemetery and 39,228 at the Manila South Cemetery.
“We did this (closure) to give you all enough time from today up to October 30 to visit your loved ones,” Moreno said.
Moreno said that if families were allowed to proceed with the annual practice, health and security authorities would have a difficult time in enforcing health and safety protocols such as physical distancing and the regular washing of hands.
Moreo said he would rescind the executive order on two conditions: if the COVID-19 situation eased up further and if a vaccine is developed and made available before October 30.
As of September 4, Manila has 869 active COVID-19 cases and 239 suspected cases. It also registered 7,431 recoveries and 338 fatalities.