Comelec: No resetting of May 9 polls despite threat of COVID-19 surge

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 28)— The Commission on Elections said it sees no need to postpone the May 9 elections despite the detection of the first known case of the Omicron subvariant that's being blamed for the fresh spike in COVID-19 infections in the United States.

"Sigurado po tayo [We are certain], suspension is not an option," Commissioner Marlon Casquejo told reporters Thursday.

This reassurance came a day after health officials detected the first case of the Omicron subvariant BA2.12 in a woman who traveled from Finland, visited Quezon City and Baguio City, and then left for abroad. Contact tracing is underway, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

"We have contingency measures so kung may spike, the Committee on New Normal has prepared on how to respond to that," Commissioner Aimee Ferolino said. "Kahit anong mangyari [Whatever happens], we will have an election. Laban kung laban [There's no stopping us]."

Commissioner Rey Bulay also pointed out that the 1987 Constitution mandates the poll body to hold the elections specifically on the second Monday of May.

On Thursday, the poll body formally asked President Rodrigo Duterte to declare May 9 as a non-working holiday to encourage registered voters to cast their ballots.

Comelec earlier signed a multi-agency deal with the DOH, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Education, and the Department of National Defense to ensure that health protocols will be enforced on voting day.

Masks are a must for all voters and physical distancing should be followed at all times inside a voting center. For areas that remain under alert levels 4 and 5, face shields are mandatory.

Voters are not required to show proof of vaccination at the voting center.

The DOH earlier suggested time limits for voters to keep areas from overcrowding.

Despite the Omicron subvariant detection and the huge campaign crowds in the past few weeks, Comelec said the strict implementation of health protocols should be enough to keep election events from becoming superspreaders.

Other last-minute preparations are underway.

Ballot boxes and transmission devices have been fully dispatched, 48.04% of all ballots were deployed, and nearly all of over 106,345 vote counting machines have been farmed out to local hubs.

Defective ballots are set to be shredded on May 7, while the media transparency server for tallied votes is being readied at the University of Sto. Tomas Quad Arena.