The Philippine Medical Association (PMA), the largest organization of doctors in the country, has urged candidates to campaign online instead of holding mass gatherings which can turn into super spreader events.
PMA president Dr. Benito Atienza said that one sick person at an event could infect so many others, leading to a hike in COVID-19 cases. He also noted that police have observed candidates shaking hands or posing in selfies with members of the crowd since the campaign period officially kicked off.
Atienza added that it would be difficult to enforce health protocols in huge crowds, one reason why he was against a sudden shift to alert level 1 which would mean the easing of restrictions. “We don’t know if [protocols] are followed and we have no way of knowing which of the participants are unvaccinated or vaccinated. With so many people, the government cannot control them,” he said at a Laging Handa briefing.
“Our advice to candidates is to go online for now,” he said, noting that under alert level 2, the indoor capacity of venues should just be at 50 percent and 70 percent for outdoor capacity.
He said this was not always the case at some events he had seen. “We saw that there was hardly any distancing. Distancing should be one meter and they should still be wearing masks and following protocols,” Atienza added.
The Philippine National Police has also recorded some violations of health and safety protocols since the start of the official campaign period for national candidates. The PNP had already informed the Commission on Elections about the violations and if complaints need to be filed, they would coordinate with the poll body and the Department of Health.
In an ideal world, the campaign would be held fully online and if not possible, all events conform to health and safety regulations. More importantly, the government would be fair and impartial in handing out penalties for the violations that are bound to happen as the campaign period heats up.
For now, while the country is still dealing with the most recent surge of COVID infections that are just starting to taper down, hopefully more sustainably this time around, candidates and their supporters will have to take extra care to prevent potential super spreader events from happening during this crucial period, both in our COVID response and the campaign as we choose the country’s future leaders.*