Thousands Defy Covid Risk in Manila to Attend Nazarene Feast

Tens of thousands of people ignored government advice and flocked to the Philippines capital Manila on Saturday to celebrate the feast of the Black Nazarene, a statue that is believed to have healing powers.

An estimated 400,000 people have been through the city’s Quiapo district since 4 a.m. local time, Lieutenant Colonel Carlo Magno Manuel, spokesman for the Manila Police District, told reporters. Because of coronavirus restrictions, only 400 visitors at a time were allowed inside the church where the statue stands.

Thousands Defy Covid Risk in Manila to Attend Nazarene Feast

More than a million people have taken part in the annual pilgrimage over past years. On Saturday, most people appear to have heeded the advice of authorities and health experts, who urged devotees to stay home and attend mass online.

Authorities were quick to disperse the crowd of early morning visitors and ensure strict implementation of physical distancing, the Department of Health said in a statement.

The Philippines has the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases in Southeast Asia, at more than 485,000 as of Jan. 9.

The feast of the Black Nazarene is one of the country’s biggest annual security challenges as the faithful of Asia’s most Catholic country troop to the capital.

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