MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ensure that all campaign activities adhere to health protocols amid the looming threat of new COVID-19 variants.
“I’d like to call the attention of the Comelec. You are the ones supervising the elections. As a matter of fact, you are the one running the show. Could you not just issue a …i-maintain lang yung social distance (maintain social distance in campaign events),” he said in a prerecorded public address.Duterte warned that failure to observe health protocols amid large gatherings could lead to a “worse” resurgence in COVID-19 infections.
“Hindi na paano — gaano karami. Punuin mo yung Luneta (It doesn’t matter how many people there are. You can occupy Luneta) as long as you maintain the regulations imposed by government kasi mahirap ito kung magbalik (Because it’s going to be a problem if it returns). It might come back with vengeance. Babalik itong sakit na ito baka magrabe pa (It might come back even worse). We are not out of the woods. The virus is still there,” he added.
He called on those participating in large gatherings, whether political in nature or not, to continue exercising “utmost caution and prudence” in the conduct of their exercises.
“Remember that we are still in a pandemic situation and any large gathering may trigger a super spreader event. While we welcome these exercises are concrete and tangible manifestations of our health democracy, kindly temper your enthusiasm and act reasonably,” he said.
He clarified that it was not the government’s intention to prevent people from assembling and petitioning the government for redress of grievances, but noted that it is better to be safe than suffer the consequences of being complacent.
“With the virus still there, yung status natin na national emergency nandiyan pa. So hanggang talagang safe na (our status under a national emergency is still there. So until it’s really safe), the doctors will say and the scientists will tell us that it is safe to move around and go out and mingle again in a crowd, hintayin muna natin ‘yan (let’s wait for it). In the meantime, let us not presuppose that as long as there is a vaccine available to all, do not ever ever presume na wala na yung (that there is no) danger of recontamination,” he said.
Meanwhile, Duterte welcomed data that showed a drop in daily COVID-19 cases across the country.
“Sa awa ng Diyos (With the mercy of God), since the last time we held our talk to the people on December 6, Covid-19 cases all over the country have averaged below 600 daily with most of the days tallying just around 300 and 400 cases,” he said.
He said the total number of positive COVID-19 cases in the country, occupancy rate of ICU, isolation, and ward beds as well as the usage rate of ventilators in Metro Manila and around the country also went down to its lowest levels in recent months.
Despite these developments, he reiterated his call to continue observing minimum public health standards.
“While these are indeed encouraging developments, I still urge our countrymen to continue observing health protocols. ‘Yan lang gyud ang pag-asa natin (It’s our only hope). Stick to what is right and the right thing to do is just obey government kasi hindi naman kami nagpapalabas ng mga regulasyon na nakakasira sa tao (because we won’t release regulations that would harm you). It’s always for the good of everybody,” he said.
He also heaved a sigh of relief that more people were getting inoculated against Covid-19.
“Mabuti’t nalang siguro at mabuti nang nabakunahan, medyo (It’s good that people are getting vaccinated) there’s a lesser casualty now. But do not tempt the gods,” he added.
However, he said people should not keep their guard down especially amid the emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Omicron a “variant of concern”.To control the spread of Omicron, the Philippines has restricted countries at high risk of infection from entering the country and updated testing and quarantine protocols for travelers. (PNA)