(File photo)

MANILA – Unvaccinated individuals may want to reconsider physically attending the traditional dawn masses (Simbang Gabi) that will begin December 15, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

Acting Presidential Spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said unvaccinated individuals may want to consider attending virtual Simbang Gabi instead to minimize the risk of catching Covid-19.

“Sa mga hindi pa po bakunado, mas mainam po na mag-attend na lang po ng online or virtual Simbang Gabi; mas mainam po magpabakuna na po tayo (To those unvaccinated, it is better if you attend online or virtual Simbang Gabi; but it is better to get vaccinated),” he said in a Palace press briefing.

Meanwhile, Nograles reminded vaccinated devotees attending dawn masses to continue observing minimum public health standards.

“Ituloy po natin i-observe ang (Let us continue observing) minimum public health standards – mag-mask po, hugas, iwas pa rin po tayo lalo na nandiyan pa rin iyong banta ng Omicron variant (let us wear masks, wash hands, keep distance especially now that the threat of Omicron variant is close),” he added.

The whole country is currently under Alert Level 2 until December 31, paving for churches to operate up to 50 percent capacity for fully vaccinated attendees, while 70 percent is allowed outside.

Churches that will be particularly affected by Typhoon Odette have been urged to conduct live streaming of dawn masses instead.

Nograles earlier reminded the public not to be complacent and continue adhering to minimum public health standards after health authorities reported detected the Omicron variant in two travelers who recently arrived in the Philippines from Japan and Nigeria.

“We assure our people that we will closely monitor developments of the two cases in light of existing protocols, as we continue to remind the public not to let their guard down, to religiously observe minimum public health standards, and call upon all those unvaccinated to get their jabs as soon as possible,” he said in a press statement.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that it has detected the Omicron variant in two travelers who recently arrived in the Philippines from Japan and Nigeria.

The DOH assured that the patients carrying the Omicron Covid-19 variant are currently isolated in a facility being managed by the Bureau of Quarantine.

Currently, the DOH is conducting active case finding and contact tracing to determine the health condition of co-passengers of the confirmed cases.

Health protocols

The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, known as Quiapo Church, said health protocols will be strictly implemented inside and outside the church during the nine-day Simbang Gabi starting Thursday.

Rev. Fr. Danichi Hui, the parochial vicar, said as part of the health protocols devotees will be allowed inside the basilica on a limited number or 50 percent of its seating capacity.

“We will be implementing the same health protocols like vaccination ID for mass goers, face mask, body temp, and sanitation,” he said in a media interview on Wednesday. “There will also be markings around the church and inside as well. We follow the 50 percent capacity.”

Meanwhile, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said tents will be set up outside the church for unvaccinated churchgoers.

“We always follow what the government or IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) say or their directives. For instance, they allow unvaccinated people to attend outside. We put tents in some places to accommodate those unvaccinated,” he said.

Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said they are allowed to accept parishioners at 70 percent seating capacity while 80 percent outside parishes.

“So, for Simbang Gabi here with the consent of LGU (local government unit) we will open for 70 percent seating of the church, and 80 percent outside. We will open our barangay chapels for dawn Masses,” he said.

He said all church workers, including those who serve at the altar in the diocese, are fully vaccinated.

Manila archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula will preside on the first day of the Simbang Gabi at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, popularly known as the Manila Cathedral. (with reports from Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)