The Catholic Church calls back the faithful of PH to live Mass

The Catholic Church on Friday urged worshipers to resume attending Masses in person every Sunday as the COVID-19 situation in the country continues to improve.

“We strongly encourage our faithful to return to the Sunday Eucharist with a purified heart, a renewed wonder and an increased desire to meet the Lord, to be with him, to receive him and to bring him to our brothers and sisters with the testimony of a life full of faith, love and hope,” CBCP President and Bishop of Caloocan, Pablo Virgilio David, said Friday in a circular addressed to all bishops and diocesan administrators.

David also reminded the public to always strictly follow government health protocols.

“Health protocols still need to be put in place in our parish churches and places of liturgical celebrations. We ensure that our faithful are confident that they are safe in our churches and places of liturgical celebrations,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) on Friday reiterated the importance of having booster shots following the emergence of new variants of COVID-19.

The DOH made the remark after being asked if existing COVID-19 vaccines would work against new subvariants, including the new Omicron XBB subvariant.

“To limit mutations of the virus, transmission must be attenuated by vaccination. With emerging and re-emerging variants and subvariants believed to have higher immune evasion characteristics, the DOH emphasizes the importance of being hardened against the virus,” the department said in a statement.

“Completing our booster doses and adhering to our health protocols will prevent severe and critical cases and keep our hospitals and health facilities from being overwhelmed,” he added.

The DOH said it will continue to track coronavirus variants, with help from the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the Omicron subvariants under surveillance as of October 12, 2022 are BA.5, BA.2.75, BJ.1, BA.4.6, XBB and BA.2.3.20 .

The Philippines has yet to report any cases of Omicron’s XBB subvariant.

Citing preliminary studies, the DOH said that “the subline shows superior immune evasion capability compared to BA.5.”

In response to the opinion of some health experts that the country is approaching the endemic stage of COVID-19, the DOH said it would await guidance from “global health partners.”

“The DOH reiterates that as we learn to live with the virus, we must continue to protect ourselves against the severe form of COVID-19,” the DOH said.

“The DOH will continue to monitor the situation locally and internationally and will wait [for] our global health partners such as the World Health Organization to declare the state of public health emergency over,” he added.

An infectious disease health expert, Dr Rontgene Solante, said it was possible the XBB subvariant could enter the country.

Solante said even vaccinated Filipinos can get sick with the COVID-19 XBB variant, if it enters the country.

He said even Singapore, which has a high rate of recall use, is seeing an increase in cases due to XBB.

Mask-wearing remains an important defense against COVID-19, he added.

“The face mask is our last protection against this infection. Which means if the virus is present and can evade our neutralizing antibody due to the nature of a highly mutated virus, then it is important to keep the face mask on.

He said easing the use of face masks might not be a good idea right now.

Jerry B. Hatch