Thousands flout Covid restrictions for Black Nazarene procession

Bangkok Desk, Jan 9 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of thousands of devout Filipinos attended a Manila church on Saturday for the Black Nazarene procession, one of the world’s largest Catholic celebrations, even though the event had been cancelled to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Some 400,000 people attended the Basilica of Quiapo, which contains the statue of Christ that believers touch in search of miracles and good fortune.

The faithful gathered despite the suspension of the procession and recommendations from the authorities to avoid massive crowds, according to information from the Manila Police to the local press.

The congregation of the crowd has raised fears among experts that it could become a hotspot spreader event for coronavirus infections, despite the measures that many parishioners took to maintain physical distance from each other.

“We’re really going to need a miracle to prevent a massive outbreak of infection in Quiapo right now,” said Dr. Edsel Salvaña, one of the experts advising the Department of Health on dealing with the pandemic, as reported in the local Philippine Star newspaper.

Faced with that possibility, the Department of Health asked devotees who had come to the basilica to quarantine at their homes and watch for symptoms of Covid-19.

Last October, the City Council of Manila decided to cancel the traditional procession of the Black Nazarene, which has been held every year since the 17th century, for the first time.

Last year, 3.3 million faithful attended, leaving 500 injured due to intense overcrowding, and on previous occasions there have been deaths from asphyxiation.

Traditionally, millions of devotees from all over the Philippines come to Manila to follow the processionnaires for hours, most of them barefoot as a form of penance, carrying the venerated image of the Black Nazarene from the Basilica of Quiapo, one of the most important temples in the country which is home to the largest number of Catholics in Asia.

Filipinos believe that the image of the Black Nazarene can work miracles, since it arrived in the country in 1606 and has survived the fires that destroyed the church in Quiapo, two earthquakes, floods and even the bombings of World War II.

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