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Unfazed by virus scare, S. Koreans hit polls as early voting begins

Politics 11:40 April 10, 2020

By Lee Minji

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- Voters wearing face masks and disposable gloves cast their ballots on Friday not long after a two-day early voting period kicked off amid the virus pandemic that has infected more than 10,000 here.

Some 3,500 polling stations were set up across the country, running from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, according to the National Election Commission.

A voter casts a ballot at a polling station in the southeastern Seoul ward of Gangnam on April 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

With public safety a key priority in this year's elections, voters and officials followed strict quarantine guidelines to prevent potential infections at polling stations.

Voters were asked to stand at least 1 meter apart from each other, with mandatory temperature checks. Some officials were seen wearing plexiglass that covered most of their face for added safety.

Voters were advised to wear face masks and were allowed to cast ballots after using hand sanitizers and putting on gloves.

To minimize the possibility of infection, machines were used for face identification. Fingerprint checks were left out as people were wearing disposable gloves.

Voters stand 1 meter apart from each other as they wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in the eastern Seoul ward of Seongdong on April 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

The process was longer than usual, but most voters said they felt safe with the precautionary measures.

"It was a bit inconvenient wearing the plastic gloves, but I think the government measures are quite good since everyone's safety is at stake," said a woman in her fifties at a polling station in Suwon, just south of Seoul.

"I run an accommodation business and work through the night, so I came to vote early before I get some sleep," said a 60-year-old surnamed Kyung on the southern resort island of Jeju. "I read in the news that masks and plastic gloves were mandatory, so it wasn't really inconvenient."

An official disinfects a polling station in the southern city of Daegu on April 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

Among the voters were those aged 18 who cast their first-ever ballots.

"I wanted to celebrate my first-ever vote, so I visited the polling station with my dad," an 18-year-old with the family name of Kim said at polling station in the southeastern coastal city of Geoje.

The novice voter, however, said the COVID-19 pandemic affected her plans.

"I wanted to stamp my hand and share the photo on social media, but couldn't do that since I was wearing a plastic glove," she said.


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