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DOH junks artificial surge talk

Assures no COVID uptick to be raised ‘for partisan use’ close to polls

Rumors circulating that the Department of Health will report an artificial surge in COVID-19 cases two days before the May 9 elections “for partisan use against any candidate at any level” are false, the DOH said Saturday.

That day, May 7, also happens to be the last official day of campaigning for national and local elective posts.

“The Department of Health categorically denies unfounded rumors that it will report an artificial increase in COVID-19 cases close to Election Day for partisan use against any candidate at any level,” the agency said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also said there is no indication there will be a lockdown after the elections due to a possible rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Duque said if needed, there will only be granular lockdowns and not a widespread lockdown, which would force or influence voters to stay away from the polls—and allow certain candidates to benefit, especially at the local level where a handful of votes could decide election victories.

The Commission on Elections also said Saturday it had no resolution requiring unvaccinated voters to show a negative RT-PCR result at their polling stations on May 9.

“No reso or guidelines mandating the showing of vaccination cards by voters. No such [requirement] for the exercise of the right of suffrage,” Comelec Commissioner George Garcia told ABS-CBN News in a text message.

Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje reiterated the currently observed increase in infections is not significant but stressed the numbers could spike if the public lets its guard down.

“In case there will be a lockdown, it will be a granular lockdown imposed in areas where cases are rising,” she said in a media briefing.

The department said the country still has “low COVID-19 case trends” due to the public’s compliance to minimum public health standards.

“Our high vaccination coverage for the primary series and very good compliance to minimum public health standards (MPHS) have resulted in low COVID-19 case trends with an average of 195 cases daily in the past week and an overall national positivity rate of 1.2%,” the DOH said.

The government defines a granular lockdown as a micro-level quarantine in the level of barangay, block, street, subdivision, residential building, or house, that is tagged as a “critical zone” by local authorities due to rising cases. This may be declared regardless of the alert level in the area.

Nonetheless, Cabotaje said they are “confident” that there will be no need for a lockdown if the minimum public health standards are followed, and if vaccination rates are improved, especially among the vulnerable population.

In a prior media briefing, Cabotaje said unvaccinated people may be asked to vote in isolation polling places where those symptomatic would also cast their ballots.

A question was asked in the context of having areas for vaccinated and unvaccinated voters during election day.

Meanwhile, Cabotaje reiterated her agency’s stance that voterspositive from COVID-19 should not go out of their quarantine, as this is against the law.

The Comelec on Friday clarified COVID-19 patients could not vote if they were in their quarantine facilities.

While the DOH said they would not stop anyone from voting, it was also important for the public to follow government policy as the pandemic persisted.

“Individuals who are positive with COVID-19 should strongly refrain from going outside and remain in isolation while recovering… The law is clear and provides for measures to quickly stop the spread of any infectious disease,” it had said in a statement.

The National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) on Saturday reported that a total of 6,702 immunocompromised individuals have received their second COVID-19 booster shots in the first week of the government’s rollout.

At the Laging Handa briefing, NVOC chairperson Cabotaje also said they do not yet have data on non-immunocompromised individuals who received their second booster.

She said there are now 67.8 million fully-vaccinated individuals in the country as the government had delivered 146.7 million total jabs.

While 31.2 million persons have received their booster shots, Cabotaje said the rollout for the first booster was “quite slow.”

“We have enough boosters for the second booster. Individuals who received their first booster could be given a second booster. The rollout of the first booster was quite slow,” she said.

“We will have a sufficient supply for those willing to have their second booster if it will be opened up to other age groups,” Cabotaje added.

 

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