Campaigns, candidates, and crowds: A call for caution as Covid is still around

We are entering the last few days of the campaign season, and soon, 65-million-plus registered voters will cast their votes on May 9, 2022. From today until election day, crowds will be thicker with different campaign sorties of national and local candidates. All these activities will culminate in a grand miting de avance — a show of force, a statement of strength, and a projection of winnability.  

But before each one of us plans where we want to spend the next few days, we have to remember that we are still, technically, in a pandemic. If we want to join campaign sorties or attend a miting de avance, health protocols must still be observed even though there is no one who will remind us to wear a mask or to sanitize our hands. The challenging part here, however, is the reality that physical distancing is impossible to follow. So for those who are vulnerable to Covid or have comorbidities, it would be better to stay at home and show support to your candidate on the ballot instead.  

This concern was highlighted by Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año when he called on officials, community leaders, organizers, and business establishments to help enforce health protocols to prevent the rise of new Covid-19 cases amid the loosened restrictions and campaign-related mass gatherings.

“The police will once again strictly enforce the minimum public health standards. We are calling on the LGUs to assist in the implementation,” Año said, noting that there are reports of difficulties in maintaining crowd control during events related to various political campaigns.    

Aside from the campaigns, the DILG chief also assured the public of the readiness of the entire police force to face its biggest challenge on May 9, as at least 60 million voters are expected to go out, troop to polling stations, and line up in classrooms, gymnasiums, or public centers. He stressed the importance of strictly implementing health protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.

The President also supported Año’s recommendations after being informed of OCTA Research’s warning that the country might record 5,000 to 10,000 Covid-19 cases daily if the new Omicron sub-variants enter the country and we are once again caught off guard. 

The President reiterated to the public to wear masks at all times, practice proper handwashing, and, if possible, to keep their distance from other voters on election day.

“There may be some crowding again (in) small spaces, especially in schools. Better remember when you go to the precincts, kindly tell yourself that you have to remember the things that the government wants you to follow. So that we won’t have too much trouble and we could prevent another surge,” the President said. 

It is crucial, Duterte added, for Filipinos not to be complacent and follow the government’s policies as Covid-19 is “here to stay.”  “It has nothing to do with elections or whatever. It has something to do with the well-being of our nation.” 

The President concluded his address to the nation by asking the public to “stop being smart alecks and listen to experts.” “You have to listen to our medical professionals, our scientists. They know what they’re doing. Let’s not act like we know better,” he said.  

Indeed, this is the timely reminder that we are still in a pandemic and the only way to retain any freedom that we are experiencing now is to just follow the simple health protocols. Trust our health experts when they say that we could not risk another virus surge; trust our economic managers when they say that we could not survive another nationwide lockdown.