DOH: Let COVID-infected folk vote online or by text

By: Patricia Denise Chiu - Philippine Daily Inquirer | September 18,2021 - 10:09 AM

COVID-19 positive on Election Day? Don’t go out. Just text your vote.

The Department of Health (DOH) hopes to see this scenario becoming real next year as it urges the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to find alternative ways for registered voters who are infected with the coronavirus to cast their votes in the May 2022 elections.

The agency suggested that such voters be allowed to vote through text message or other online channels.

At an online press briefing on Friday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire stressed the DOH position against allowing voters who are infected with the virus from leaving their isolation areas to cast their ballot in the national and local elections.

“We all know that COVID-positive patients who leave isolation have the potential to infect others, so hopefully the Comelec can have an alternative way to have these elections for COVID-positive patients,” Vergeire said.

Stay in isolation

She said that while the Comelec is free to set its own guidelines, these must still be in accordance with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the DOH.

“Maybe it can be virtual, or digital, through SMS. The DOH really does not recommend that positive patients leave isolation, since they can transmit the virus and infect other people,” she added.

Vergeire explained that allowing COVID-positive voters to go out, even if they will vote in isolation tents, could potentially cause a superspreader event.

The DOH official made the statement following a pronouncement from Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas last week that COVID-19 patients would still be allowed to vote in designated isolation centers at the voting precincts.

“Yes, of course. They can vote. We will make a way to set up isolation centers in each polling center, so they will be separated from other voters and they will be able to vote in isolation centers,’’ Abas said during a budget hearing at the House of Representatives.

But poll watchers and members of the Board of Election Inspectors will not be allowed to go to polling precincts if they are positive for the coronavirus on Election Day, Abas said.

‘New normal’ polls

Abas said the Comelec was coordinating with the IATF to finalize safety guidelines for the elections.

There was no immediate response from Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez when the Inquirer sought his comment on the DOH proposal.

In a House hearing in July, Jimenez said the Comelec was then drafting rules for the “new normal,” including a limit on the number of people permitted inside a polling precinct (only five at a time) and on the size of the crowd allowed in campaign rallies.

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TAGS: 2022 elections, Comelec, COVID-19, COVID-infected, DOH, election day, online voting

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