CNA Staff, Mar 24, 2021 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- A spokesperson for Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, said the government will force local churches to close if priests hold public Masses in defiance of public health orders. A local bishop, however, has argued that Masses held at low capacity are a safe way to maintain public worship, especially during Holy Week and Easter.

In an attempt to combat a surge in coronavirus infections, new government restrictions have banned public meetings, including religious gatherings. 

The Philippines has had more than 677,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 13,000 deaths, among the highest rates in Southeast Asia. 

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