Drive-by blessings in virus-hit Philippines

MANILA: Priests delivered blessings from the back of trucks and motorised tricycles in the Philippine Sunday (Apr 5), adapting the deeply Catholic nation’s traditions to the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

Locals lined up in front of their homes in a district of Manila, which is entering its fourth week of a lockdown that has brought the frenetic metropolis nearly to a halt.

The priests made signs of the cross as they rolled past waving residents marking Palm Sunday, the start of the week that culminates with the observance of Easter.

“This celebration will continue despite the spread of the virus,” said Bong Sosa, who attended wearing a mask crafted from a water cooler bottle.

The blessings come as the Philippines recorded a total of 144 deaths and 3,094 confirmed virus cases, numbers that are expected to keep rising as the nation ramps up testing.

The quarantine that has shuttered schools and businesses and halted all social and religious events across most of the nation will likely be extended beyond mid-April, authorities have said.

Easter is a major holiday in the Philippines when millions typically return to their family homes outside the capital, but heavy restrictions on movement will disrupt those trips this year.

Bans on large public events will also mean that typically thronged churches will be empty save for priests performing mass that will be live-streamed into tens of millions of homes.

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