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Election watchdog prioritizes preventing COVID-19 self-isolators from having contact with other voters

All News 15:09 April 13, 2020

SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's election watchdog said Monday it will prioritize preventing those in self-isolation over the new coronavirus from having contact with other voters when they cast ballots in this week's elections.

The government will allow people ordered to go into self-quarantine from April 1-14 and without symptoms of the virus to vote in Wednesday's parliamentary elections after regular voting ends at 6 p.m.

Under measures revealed by the National Election Commission (NEC), self-isolators wearing face masks are to wait at designated places before being guided to make-shift polling booths after 6 p.m.

Their movements and voting hours will be arranged in a way that does not overlap with those of other voters. Self-isolators will only be allowed to be outside from 5:20 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the election day.

Election officials overseeing voting will wear full protective gear, including face shields, masks and surgical gloves.

When self-isolators have finished voting, officials will immediately disinfect ballot stamps and polling booths.

Health authorities also plan to implement stricter social distancing for such voters at polling stations.

Ordinary voters are advised to stand 1 meter apart from others while waiting to vote. But people under self-quarantine should keep a distance of at least 2 meters from others.

Currently, there are around 50,000 people in self-isolation over COVID-19.

The government plans to send text messages asking about their willingness to vote Monday and Tuesday. Those in self-quarantine who want to vote should reply by 6 p.m. on the day that they receive the message.

Authorities remain on high alert over the possibility that the temporary lifting of self-isolation rules could spark community transmission if those under self-quarantine do not cooperate.

"Self-isolators should bear in mind that the government will ease quarantine rules to guarantee their right to vote," said Chun Byung-chul, a professor of preventive medicine at Korea University College of Medicine.

Voters stand 1 meter apart from others while waiting in line to cast ballots in early voting for the April 15 parliamentary elections at the office of Jongno Ward in central Seoul on April 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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