The Philippines 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 a contagion 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.
“It makes me feel safe,” said Wendy Tamidles, a 19-year-old student.
She was among thousands of people, some wearing surgical masks, who lined up at Baclaran church in Manila for services on Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the run-up to Easter, and includes Catholics having crosses drawn in ash on their foreheads.