Philippine Church Takes Anti-flu Measures in Sunday Masses
    2009-06-07 13:22:31     Xinhua      Web Editor: Xu Leiying
In Manila, the fear over the spread of the A/H1N1 influenza not just prompted authorities to delay school openings. Now, church-goers are advised to change the usual way they worship God, though temporarily.

In an advisory posted on the official website of the Catholic Biships' Conference of the Philippines on Sunday, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales ordered priests to take flu precautionary measures, which includes no hand-to-mouth contact and less hand-holding.

Fr Genardo Diwa, head of the Liturgical ministry of the Manila archdiocese said Cardinal Rosales has ordered that for the meantime Communion "be received by the faithful only by hand" for this Sunday's mass, in a country where more than 80 percent of the its 90 million population are considered Catholics.

"This is to avoid further inadvertent spread of the virus," Diwa said.

A young church-goer who did the Sunday mass in the latest fashion told Xinhua that he had no problem with the altered services. "It is always better to have some precautions in place and it is reasonable considering the current health situation," he said.

By last Friday, the Philippines has reported a cumulative sum of 33 A/H1N1 cases, the highest among its Southeast Asian neighbors, but the health officials insisted that there is no community-level outbreak and the health situation is firmly under control.

Among the 33 cases, three were college students in De La Salle University, prompting the authorities to order a ten-day suspension of classes in this major Manila university with 15,000 students and faculty members.

And the Commission on Higher Education also announced over the weekend that the scheduled opening of classes in colleges and universities on June 8 was pushed back to June 15 to avoid large- scale spread of the virus.

Around the world, the World Health Organization reported in its latest bulletin that as of 06:00 GMT, 5 June 2009, 21,940 cases of influenza A/H1N1 infection were reported, including 125 deaths.

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