(ATTN: ADDS more info from paras 9-10)
SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in called Tuesday for measures to guarantee voting rights of virus patients and people in self-isolation in the upcoming presidential election amid concerns that the ongoing COVID-19 crisis could prevent hundreds of thousands of voters from casting their ballots.
Under current election rules, it is virtually impossible for those who are diagnosed with COVID-19 after the early voting period that falls on March 4-5 and people who go into self-isolation just before the March 9 presidential election to cast their votes.
Moon ordered aides to come up with ways to ensure people infected with COVID-19 and those who are under quarantine can cast their votes in the March 9 presidential election, according to presidential spokesperson Park Kyung-mee.
People who test positive for the novel coronavirus can cast their votes by mail in the March 9 presidential election only if they apply for a mail-in ballot between Wednesday and Sunday.
For those who are infected with COVID-19 after Feb. 13, they can vote through special polling stations at residential virus treatment centers during the early voting period.
However, officials have yet to come up with solutions for people who test positive for COVID-19 after the early voting period. The polling stations at residential virus treatment centers are not scheduled to open March 9.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said the government will decide on its plan for handling voting by virus patients and quarantined people at an election-related ministers' meeting next Tuesday after gathering opinions from the National Election Commission and health authorities.
During a parliamentary health committee meeting, Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said authorities are reviewing in-person voting for people with COVID-19.
The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) said they will hold a parliamentary political reform committee meeting Wednesday to discuss revising the election law in a way that allows virus-infected people to vote separately from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on March 9.
The DP will also propose a revision that makes virus patients eligible for mail-in voting, while the PPP will call for the establishment of temporary polling stations and other facilities for virus patients to cast their votes.
South Korea's new COVID-19 infections have stayed above 35,000 cases for four straight days as the highly infectious omicron variant has become the country's dominant strain.
Yoon's outreach to Southeast Asia keeps China in the loop
Allies' defense chiefs highlight watertight alliance based on full extended deterrence against N. Korean threats
(News Focus) Police under fire for lax response to emergency calls hours before Itaewon crush
Police under fire for lax response to emergency calls hours before Itaewon crush
Role of administrative authorities questioned in Itaewon disaster