Filipino couples kiss each other while wearing masks provided by the City Health Office in Bacolod city, Philippines. AP
Lovers and their relatives braved the virus, which has killed 2,236 people, to attend Thursday's mass ceremony sponsored by the coastal city of Bacolod.
The lobby of city hall was a sea of white shirts and gowns, dotted with the blue of the masks, which were mandatory for all, and provided by the authorities.
"It feels different to kiss while wearing masks, but it was required," said John Paul Inventor, 39, who married his partner of seven years and the mother of their two children. "The place was jam-packed."
Participants had to complete health declarations detailing a travel history for 14 days, the quarantine period across the globe for arrivals from China, and the maximum incubation time for the virus.
"If our families are strong, the city of Bacolod becomes strong, too," said Mayor Evelio Leonardia, who officiated at the function.
Annual mass weddings are a post-Valentine's Day tradition in the city, with a record 2,013 couples participating in 2013.
Mass weddings are also a distinguishing feature for a church in South Korea that prepared hand sanitiser and handed out surgical masks for some of the roughly 30,000 people who attended a ceremony this month.
The Philippines has recorded the first coronavirus death outside China, among three infections, all of Chinese nationals, but at least three dozen of its citizens based overseas have caught the virus.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, an estimated 30,000 weddings took place every weekend in the United States. For wedding planners, the pandemic has also proven devastating, with many bracing for huge losses and fearing they might be forced to shut down.
As part of its intensified testing campaign, MoHAP announced that it conducted 480,766 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, using state-of-the-art medical testing equipment.
The ministry stressed in a statement that its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary care treatment.
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