Health official cautions Comelec vs allowing COVID-19 patients to vote

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 17)— The Department of Health on Friday said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should study alternative ways to allow COVID-19 patients to vote in next year's elections, warning its plan could lead to more infections.

Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas earlier said COVID-positive voters can still cast their ballots in an isolated area in polling centers. COVID-19 testing will also be available for voters exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the poll body should explore other options for the May 2022 polls since it may lead to the spread of the virus.

"Baka pwede namang virtual na lang, digital, through SMS, kung makakagawa ng ganitong proseso," she said in a media briefing. "Talagang ang Department of Health ay hindi nirerekomenda na ang mga COVID positive patients ay lalabas ng kanilang isolation area to do this kind of activity."

[Translation: Maybe it can be done virtually or through text messaging. The DOH doesn't recommend COVID-19 patients to leave isolation areas.]

In response, Comelec clarified that the isolated areas are intended for those who would show symptoms upon arrival at voting centers.

"While these persons may indeed turnout to be COVID positive, they will not be turned away automatically just because they are suspected to be potential cases. Instead, they will be directed to IPPs (isolation polling precincts) where they can vote away from the general public, with all the necessary precautions appropriate to their health condition," Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in a statement.

"To reiterate- the IPPs are not intended to be polling places for persons who are confirmed to be COVID positive and are, on Election Day, supposed to be in quarantine," he added.

Reacting to the proposal on alternative voting methods, Jimenez said these are "not authorized by law" and will therefore not be employed during the 2022 polls.