Undas 2020: NCR mayors want cemeteries closed for a week

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — All Metro Manila mayors have agreed to temporarily close cemeteries and columbarium for one week around the November 1 All Saints Day holiday to prevent mass gatherings that could further spread COVID-19. But MMDA on Monday clarified that the Inter-Agency Task Force has not yet decided on the date and duration of implementation.

Metro Manila Council Chairman and Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez said all 17 local chief executives in the region agreed to have a "unified policy" to not allow visitors in public and private cemeteries from October 29 to November 4. He said those who will visit cemeteries before and after the said dates will be required to wear face shields and face masks.

"We encourage them to visit the cemetery on a spread time. One month before or one month after Undas para ma-implement pa rin po ang ating physical distancing (so we can implement physical distancing)," he told CNN Philippines.

He said interment and cremation services should continue even on these dates. MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said detailed rules and restrictions for Undas will decided by the mayors.

Meanwhile, MMDA Spokesperson Celine Pialago said Metro Manila residents can visit cemeteries beginning today.

Maaari na ho [silang] pumunta sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay starting today hanggang October 28 po,” Pialago told CNN Philippines’ Newsroom Ngayon.

[Translation: They can visit their loved ones starting today until October 28.]

But local government units have yet to release guidelines on the early visitation, she said.

The MMDA spokesperson bared that residents may visit cemeteries outside Metro Manila, should they be granted permission by the provincial government.

They also need to secure medical certificates and travel passes from the local authorities, she added.

Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire lauded the "good practice" initiated by Metro Manila mayors, saying DOH may recommend to implement a similar scheme to be carried out nationwide.

"Kapag dumating 'yung panahon na 'yan (Undas), maaaring makapag-recommend din tayo so that it can be implemented across the country," she said in a media forum.

[Translation: When that time comes (Undas), we may also give similar recommendations, so that it can be implemented across the country.]