Catholic dioceses in the Metro Manila area of the Philippines have suspended public Masses for three weeks amid a rise in COVID-19 infections.

The news service of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines reported on July 31 that Masses would be online-only until Aug. 20.

Manila archdiocese, as well as its suffragan dioceses of Cubao, Novaliches, Pasig, Parañaque, and Kalookan, have dispensed Catholics of their obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

The Philippines, a country of 108 million people, has recorded 1,605,762 coronavirus cases and 28,093 deaths as of Aug. 3, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Officials fear a surge in the Delta variant of the coronavirus first identified in India. Reuters reported on Aug. 2 that there were more than 8,000 recorded infections a day from Friday to Monday.

The capital region, which has a population of almost 13 million, is currently under general community quarantine with additional restrictions. It will move to the more stringent enhanced community quarantine on Aug. 6-20.

Bishop Honest Ongtioco of Cubao said: “Let us continue to support the preventive measures being implemented by the government to slow down the surge of the virus.”

“We encourage the faithful to stay at home and stay safe. We will reopen our churches for public worship on Aug. 21, if conditions improve.”

In the diocese of Parañaque, which covers the cities of Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Muntinlupa, funeral and wake Masses will be permitted while public Masses are suspended.

Bishop Jesse Mercado of Parañaque said that churches would remain open for personal prayer while following health regulations.

“We continue to storm heaven with our prayers especially in this uncertain situation of our time,” he said. “May our prudent and faithful observance of our protocols ensure the safety of our family and country.”

On July 30, Manila archdiocese issued a prayer for protection against the Delta variant composed by Cardinal José Advíncula, who was installed last month as Manila’s archbishop, succeeding Cardinal Antonio Tagle.

The prayer reads:

Dear God, our loving Father,
we ask You to extend Your hand over us
to protect us especially from harm,
from the threat that is
brought about by COVID-19
especially by this new Delta variant.
We ask You also to continually guide
and enlighten those who take care
of our health, the government,
our doctors, our nurses, those that are
working especially in the hospitals
and all the frontliners so that
they may continue their work in order
to safeguard the health of the community.
This we ask of You through
Christ our Lord. Amen.