he casting of ballots for each voter in the 2022 elections should be accomplished “the quickest time possible” to avoid coronavirus infections at the polling precinct, the Department of Health recommended on Saturday.
This developed as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) held a voting simulation in San Juan City to prepare for the country’s first national elections under the COVID-19 pandemic.
The simulation was held in Barangays Balongbato and Ermitaño, which have a total of 4,235 registered voters.
“If we observe, based on the characteristics of the virus, we get into close contact — by definition — with an exposed person for 15 minutes or less. But this is not the case with the Delta variant, which is highly transmissible,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a Laging Handa briefing.
“Our recommendation is that the casting of ballots of each voter should be done the shortest time possible and in an orderly manner, so that people would not congregate,” she added.
The run-through sought to determine the average time it takes to verify voter identities on the Election Day Computerized Voting List base, which has 800 registered voters per clustered precinct, the Comelec said.
The poll body also sought to identify other areas of concern in the verification process, considering the need to observe minimum public health and safety protocols with the ongoing pandemic.
During the simulation process, all participants were required to wear face masks and face shields upon entering school premises. Their body temperature was taken to ensure they don’t have a fever, a COVID-19 symptom.
An isolation polling place (IPP) was also designated for those who may exhibit symptoms.
“If the voter has symptoms, they will be brought to the IPP, isolation polling place. After that, they will be directed to the appropriate health officers on standby,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said.
If the voter still wants to cast their vote despite showing symptoms, polling staff will assist them.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 marshalls were placed on standby to remind participants to observe proper physical distancing.
Jimenez said the COVID-19 pandemic would definitely have an impact on the voting hours and the whole election process.
Teofisto Elnas Jr., Comelec’s Deputy Executive Director for Operations, said the result of the simulation and their recommendations will be added to the general instructions of the Commission for election day itself.
Photos by AFP and Manny Palmero