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April 30, 2022

by Arbe Jay S. Polancos

Before the Philippine elections in May, campaign rallies from different political parties- be it at the local or national level- have left people questioning the safety of joining such activities since the Philippines is not exactly COVID-free just yet. Aside from that, the yearly celebration of the Roman Catholic’s Holy Week and the Muslim’s Ramadan are also set to happen this month. These religious events and/or holidays involve a gathering of people to their respective churches, thus possibly compromising social distancing. Not much is different when compared to political rallies versus church gatherings, but it is to be noted that the former makes an individual more prone and exposed to the virus than the latter activity.

This is an alarming occurrence considering that not all Filipinos are even vaccinated. As of the time of this writing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 66% of the target population are fully vaccinated. This means that people ageing five years old and up have undergone complete vaccination. However, the Department of Health (DOH), in partnership with WHO have targeted areas with the highest vulnerability rate since there are regions in the PH that are ranked low in vaccination against COVID. They called this movement as ‘reach the unreached’.  They have also narrowed down their focus to the elderly, people with comorbidities, and of course the healthcare workers- the frontliners. The Local Government Units (LGUs) play a huge and vital role in this endeavour since they are the ones on the ground- paired with the support of some private sectors and of course, the community itself.

Delving deeper into the ground and through observation, it is somehow a common sight to see some people not wearing masks anymore. Rajendra Yadav, WHO representative, prescribes people to always wear a mask and even take COVID booster shots which are readily available in respective cities and municipalities all around the country. This is primarily to reduce the potential risk of a surge in cases. Doing these things alone is just the least a person could do to participate and cooperate in the government’s efforts to eradicate the virus once and for all. It is also a citizen’s responsibility to educate people especially unvaccinated family members to be vaccinated and protected by encouraging them to do so.

In retrospect, these activities are not prohibited and will never be since it is ingrained in the culture of Filipinos, as far as cultures go. Political rallies are optional since supporting a candidate doesn’t mean that you really have to be there- unless you are paid and there are buses waiting to come and pick you up. People are allowed to gather safely by means of doing it in small groups and have it outdoors- al fresco style. Yadav quotes that “No one should be left behind. No one is safe until everyone is safe.” This quote should be resonated to every Filipino who wants to live in the coming years without the strain and stress of the COVID virus.