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Omicron threat looms over campaign rallies

These events gather hundreds, if not thousands, of people. The pandemic is not over. The Omicron variant is still coming.

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The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Friday reminded the political parties and their candidates for the 9 May 2022 elections to refrain from organizing political rallies amid the threats of Covid-19 and its new Omicron variant.

DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said special gatherings will only be allowed if permitted by the host local government unit (LGU). All Minimum Public Health Standards should be observed, however.

“Political rallies are still forbidden,” Año stated. It’s not yet the campaign period. We have been seeing candidates, both national and local, staging political rallies here and there.”

“These events gather hundreds, if not thousands, of people. The pandemic is not over. The Omicron variant is still coming,” he added.

Año said these gatherings could become super spreaders.

“We cannot put our guard down. The Omicron variant has already reached many countries and it’s only a matter of time before it reaches us,” Año said.

The host LGU, however, could provide permits to these events as long as health protocols are assured, the DILG chief said.

As of yesterday, only caravans and motorcades are allowed, but only for a limited time.

Use of open areas is also encouraged.

“The police monitor caravans or motorcades and ensure that there is physical distancing, unlike political rallies where it is difficult to control people,” he said.

“There is a time for everything and now is not the time to gather a huge number of people. Let’s wait for the campaign period. We are fortunate that the case is dropping in our country but this is not the time to push our luck. Covid-19 is still here and we can’t be complacent,” he said.

According to the Commission on Elections, the official campaign period begins 8 February 2022 for candidates seeking national posts.

Those seeking local elective positions, including those running for posts in the House of Representatives, can start campaigning on 25 March 2022.

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