COVID19 and the Filipino Community in Macau

– Fr Leonard Dollentas

The latest figure of persons in the Philippines who have tested positive for COVID-19 has soared to 552 (as of 25 March). The country’s Department of Health or DOH has also reported that 33 patients with COVID-19 have died while 19 have recovered so far. DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement: “While this is a very welcome development (referring to those who have recovered), there is no reason for us to be complacent. In order to contain the virus, we may also need to extend community quarantine to other areas of the country.” He continued:  “We need the public to cooperate with us now more than ever and serve as our partners in ensuring that the spread of COVID-19 is put to a halt. Let us all act fast and act now.”

Considering the continuing gravity of the situation President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine. This requires a strict home quarantine for all, mass transportation suspension, purchase regulations for food and essential health services and intensifying police presence to enforce quarantine procedures.

Understandably, Filipinos in Macau are concerned.  Filipinos make up Macau’s biggest foreign community, numbering about 35,000, or around 5 percent of the population. They are grateful that the condition in Macau is less threatening, but this did not prevent them from being less concerned about their families in the Philippines. In their restlessness, they resort to prayers. A Filipina domestic helper who has worked in Macau for two decades said that in the past days she would make more frequent visits to the church near her place in Taipa to pray, holding a picture of her family while gazing at the image of Our Lady or the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Though Filipinos are known to be tough and ready for any natural calamity, the COVID19 pandemic is bringing them much anxiety. At the same time it brings them closer to their family members and relatives. They are thankful to the health workers in the frontline across the country working tirelessly to make everyone safe from the virus and are hopeful that God will bring healing into the world today.

Meanwhile, the Lenten recollection for Filipino communities in Rome with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, has been canceled amid the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.

The Cardinal appealed to the Catholic faithful around the world to find meaning in the coronavirus crisis grappling the world: “Let’s find the bright side in this crisis to better celebrate the Lenten Season. Lent’s three disciplines are fasting, almsgiving and prayer,” he said.