By John Ezekiel J. Hirro

Palace spokesman Harry Roque announced on Friday that religious gatherings would be allowed in limited capacities in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) starting July 10.

Religious gatherings will be allowed at up to 10 percent of the venue seating capacity, or up to 10 persons, whichever is higher.

As in any other mass gathering allowed under community quarantines, individuals in religious gatherings were required to observe social distancing and wear face masks, Roque said.

President Rodrigo Duterte on June 1 placed Benguet, Cavite, Rizal, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Leyte, Ormoc, Southern Leyte and Talisay City under GCQ until July 15.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases in May allowed only five and 10 participants in areas under GCQ and modified GCQ (MGCQ), respectively.

The MGCQ restriction was later eased in June, as IATF allowed up to 50 percent of the seating capacity to be occupied in religious gatherings.

Local government units may prohibit religious gatherings in areas considered as Covid-19 hotspots.

Football, basketball

The IATF has also approved practice and conditioning workouts for basketball and football teams, Malacañang said Friday.

“Pinayagan po iyong practice at conditioning ng basketball at saka ng football sang-ayon po sa request ng PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) at ng ibang mga football association,” he said.

The joint administrative order allowing the resumption of practices was approved by the Philippine Sports Commission, Games and Amusements Board and the Department of Health.

PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial said the IATF’s approval would help the league prepare for its eventual return.

“Masaya tayo sa development na ito. We’re still on track for our scheduled return,” quoted Marcial as saying.

“I’m sure masaya din ang mga players sa balitang ito dahil sila mismo gusto na makalaro uli,” he added.

The government earlier allowed non-contact sports and exercises such as walking, jogging, running, biking, golf, swimming, tennis, badminton, equestrian, range shooting, and skateboarding even under quarantine.

The specifics of the joint administration order, such as the number of players and coaches allowed per workout and other health standards to be followed, have yet to be released publicly.