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Filipinos flock to cemeteries ahead of Day of the Dead closure

Thousands of people wearing masks and face shields poured into cemeteries in Manila on Wednesday for their last chance to visit dead loved ones ahead of a government-ordered closure of graveyards for All Saints' Day.

The religious observance on November 1 is usually marked by festivities and impromptu family gatherings that authorities fear could fuel the spread of the coronavirus in the Catholic-majority Philippines.

In a bid to prevent that happening, cemeteries across the country will be closed for the first time from Thursday until November 4.

Wearing mandatory masks people clutched bags of food and bunches of flowers as they passed through temperature checks and disinfection tents at the entrance to the Manila North Cemetery -- one of several in the sprawling capital of 12 million people.

The All Saints' Day ritual stretches back to ancient Rome. For the Philippines, it is a time to pray for and remember the deceased by visiting their tombs and lighting candles.

Many poor people also live in the city's graveyards. One dweller told AFP that his family had stocked up on supplies before the gates closed.