Safety during Undas

Safety during Undas

The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has upended traditional celebrations and rituals in the country, among them the Lenten observances and the Flores de Mayo processions. The latest to be affected by the COVID-19 health crisis is this year’s holiday for commemorating the dearly departed.

Following the lead of the city government of Manila, which hosts some of the most crowded cemeteries in the country, the rest of Metro Manila will also shut down cemeteries not only during the holidays for All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days or Undas, but from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4.

The announcement of the shutdown was made to allow people to visit the dead much earlier or after the special days. For many, this is an annual ritual of cleaning tombs, checking for damage, repainting and refurbishing. And for many, this is an occasion for family gatherings.

With COVID quarantine measures gradually easing, it’s likely that people will still plan for such gatherings this year – not during Undas itself, but in the weeks leading up to the holiday. This early, authorities should draw up public health safety protocols for those who will visit cemeteries.

Local government units may also devise their own systems for crowd control inside cemeteries. Marshals can be fielded to ensure compliance with COVID health regulations particularly wearing of face masks and shields as well as physical distancing. Health protocols must be strictly enforced among vendors of flowers, candles and other items.

This year’s Holy Week traditions were not observed as Metro Manila and many other parts of the country were under the strictest enhanced community quarantine at the time. Undas will be the first major public holiday following the easing of COVID quarantine restrictions. It will be a test of crowd control and compliance with health protocols in the weeks leading up to the biggest holiday period of the year, Christmas. Undas safety protocols must be put in place as early as possible. The days of the dead must not lead to the spread of the coronavirus and more deaths.