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LIMASAWA, Southern Leyte, Mar. 9 (PIA) -- The local government unit here has outlined precautionary steps to mitigate concerns on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), as several activities are scheduled by the end of this month in connection with the 499th First Mass celebration.

“We are closely coordinating with the Department of Health,” Limasawa Mayor Melchor Petracorta told PIA in a cellular phone interview yesterday.

Among the efforts due for implementation is the setting up of a thermal scanner in the town of Padre Burgos, the usual take-off point for visitors and pilgrims who are going to Limasawa on or before March 31.

A questionnaire will also be filled up to track the history of travel, address, and other necessary details of individual visitors for quick assessment.

The LGU is in the process of purchasing 15 thermal guns with a total budget of P240,000 so visitors coming to the island in various points of arrival will be checked for their body temperature, and those found having fever will be duly referred for quick medical attention, Mayor Petracorta said.

Even before President Rodrigo Duterte declared a nationwide state of public health emergency as a counter move against the further spread COVID-19, the LGU has readied funds, and now with the President’s declaration additional budget can be accessed, the Mayor added.

A separator will be installed, another precautionary measure, so that pilgrims and locals will not go on a similar way, with locals required to wear ID cards that are different from those issued for visiting pilgrims and guests for easy identification.

Petracorta said the conduct of the First Mass rites would be the call of the Church, to push through it or not, although religious ceremonies are generally not known to be affected by health-related alerts.

Tourism secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat is the expected guest on March 31 for the side of the government, while for the side of the church, Romulo Valles, Archbishop of Davao and CBCP president, is the guest, Petracorta shared.

But for other activities such as the sports fest by the Philippine Sports Commission from March 28-31, and the Gawad Kalinga Bayani Challenge from March 26-30, Petracorta said they are waiting for signals from the DOH.

A post from Dr. Jerome Paler, provincial GK head, Monday, already announced that the Bayani Challenge was set aside.

“In solidarity with the whole nation’s concern, we set aside the preparation and conduct of the Bayani Challenge in Limasawa,“ the FB post dated Monday, March 9, read. (ldl/mmp/PIA8-Southern Leyte)