Filipinos marked Ash Wednesday with a bow and a sprinkling of dust instead of a cross being daubed on their foreheads, as Asia’s bastion of Catholicism guarded against the spread of coronavirus.
Leaders of the Philippine church urged priests to adapt the rite in order to reduce the risk of fanning the virus that has killed over 2,700, mostly in China.
Since the outbreak, which has resulted in three confirmed cases and one death in the Philippines, churches have also discouraged worshippers from holding hands during mass.
On Wednesday, February 26, 2020, people were seen wearing surgical masks, as they lined up at Baclaran church in Manila for services.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the run up to Easter, and includes Catholics having crosses drawn in ash on their foreheads.
The Philippines is overwhelmingly Catholic, with some 80 percent of its people said to be believers. Its unique brand of the religion also includes gruesome annual re-enactments of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Local church officials have also strongly recommended that Catholics do not kiss or touch the cross during Good Friday services, which is usually the common practice.
Rector of Baclaran church, Victorino Cueto said they are being cautious of the virus in a bid to avoid its spread.