MANILA (2nd UPDATE)— Voters positive for COVID-19 can still vote during the May 9 elections if they are allowed to leave isolation, the Commission on Elections said Thursday.
Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said virus patients may vote in isolated polling precincts if they are allowed to go out of their quarantine areas.
"Puwede po basta po sila ay papayagang makalabas po sa kung sila ay naka-isolate, halimbawa, lalung-lalo na kung sila ay nasa isang isolation facility. Of course po, wala po kaming guidelines na kung saan [ay sinasabi na] iyong balota ay dadalhin mismo sa isolation facility," said Garcia in a televised briefing.
(Yes they can as long as they are allowed to leave their isolation facilities. But we do not have guidelines saying we can bring ballots to these isolation facilities.)
"Kung talagang wala naman sa aming patakaran na hindi sila pagbobotohin, kaya lang ang pakiusap namin, kung saka-sakali, doon sa mga [may] nararamdaman lang, mas maganda sana na again face mask at kung kayo po ay okay lang sa inyo, mag-face shield na rin," he added.
(It is not in our policy to prevent them from voting. What we are just asking is that they wear face masks and if you can, wear a face shield.)
"Lahat ng may nararamdaman, may sintomas ay makakaboto. Hindi namin sila pauuwiin," he added.
(Those who are experiencing symptoms can vote. We will not turn them away.)
The Comelec said it will designate isolation polling places during Election Day, reserved for people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
The isolation period for the general population has been shortened to 7 days for vaccinated individuals, and 10 days for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated persons who are probable, mild, and asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, revised rules showed.
The Department of Health (DOH) had called on people with COVID-19 symptoms to just stay in their homes, while President Rodrigo Duterte urged the public to practice minimum health protocols to avoid a post-election surge.
DOH: WE WON'T STOP THEM
In a separate statement, the DOH said while it "would not stop" anyone from casting their vote, COVID-19 patients still have to follow government's quarantine guidelines.
"Individuals who are positive with COVID-19 should strongly refrain from going outside and remain in isolation while recovering, as required in DOH Department Memorandum 2022-0013," the agency said.
"The law is clear and provides for measures to quickly stop the spread of any infectious disease," it added.
The DOH said it was tasked to implement laws to contain the pandemic.
"[Republic Act No. 11332] prohibits and penalizes non-cooperation of those affected by a health event of public concern, of which the current pandemic is an example," it noted.
The DOH on Wednesday said it detected the country's first case of the omicron subvariant BA.2.12.
The Comelec will make the last call on postponing elections in areas with surges of COVID-19 cases, said Garcia, when asked how the poll body was preparing for the subvariant.
"Ang commission ang may final say kung ang isang lugar ay magpo-postpone ng election... Nasa amin ang discretion base sa assessment ng buong pangyayari kasama na ang advice sa atin ng [DOH]" he said.
(The commission has the final say on whether or not an areas will postpone the election. We have the discretion based on an assessment of the whole situation, plus the advice of the DOH.)
Video from PTV