South Korea

South Korea weighs voting options for people with COVID-19 ahead of election

Reuters
South Korea weighs voting options for people with COVID-19 ahead of election

IN SOUTH KOREA. People wearing masks to prevent contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walk on a street in downtown Seoul, South Korea, January 5, 2022.

Heo Ran/Reuters

South Korea will elect its next president on March 9, but concerns about potential disruptions related to COVID-19 are growing as daily cases skyrocket due to the spread of the Omicron variant

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s parliament explored ways on Wednesday, February 9, to allow people who have caught the novel coronavirus to cast their ballot in next month’s presidential election, as the number of new cases spiraled to nearly 50,000 for the first time.

South Korea will elect its next president on March 9, but concerns about potential COVID-19-related disruptions are growing as daily cases skyrocket due to the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

The election watchdog planned to introduce a proposal on Wednesday to the National Assembly to amend the Public Official Election Act enabling in-person voting for COVID-19 patients after 6 pm on March 5 and 9.

The current rules effectively ban people who were diagnosed with a contagious disease after the March 4-5 early voting period due to a mandatory isolation policy.

Both the ruling and opposition parties have called for allowing the patients to vote from 6-9 pm, and an agreed proposal was expected to be put up for a vote on Monday.

The ruling Democratic Party also called for mail-in voting for the patients, while the main opposition People Power Party suggested setting up special polling stations for them.

South Korea’s daily number of new cases hit a record high of 49,567 for Tuesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The daily tally has more than doubled in less than a week, and could reach up to 170,000 later this month, the KDCA said.

President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday there needed to be a measure to ensure all voters can exercise their right to vote.

South Korea, with a 52 million population, has largely been a COVID-19 mitigation success story, with 1,131,239 total infections and 6,943 deaths, thanks largely to masks, distancing and aggressive testing and tracing.

But the government shifted its testing and tracing policy in the face of the Omicron spread in favour of self-monitoring and diagnosis and at-home treatment starting last week.

It also extended strict distancing curbs until Feb. 20, including a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants, cafes and bars.

Nearly 96% of South Korean adults have been fully vaccinated and some 64% have received a booster shot. – Rappler.com