SEOUL • Early voting in South Korea’s parliamentary election kicked off yesterday, with coronavirus patients casting ballots at designated stations and candidates adopting new ways of campaigning to limit the risk of contagion.
The National Election Commission has set up eight polling stations to be used by more than 3,000 coronavirus patients receiving treatment as well as 900 medical workers at treatment centres in hard-hit areas, including the capital Seoul and Daegu city.
The election itself is on Wednesday, but officials are hoping that people will take advantage of early voting options to reduce the number of voters crowding polling locations on that day.
There are 3,500 stations for people to cast their ballots over two days of early voting, starting yesterday. Polling stations were disinfected on Thursday, ahead of their opening, and all voters must wear a mask and gloves, and use sanitiser.
Officials conducted temperature checks at the entrance and anyone with a temperature higher than 37.5 deg C was directed to special booths.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in cast his ballot yesterday at a polling station near the Blue House.
The government is still debating plans whether to allow the roughly 46,500 people who have not tested positive for the virus but are in self-quarantine to vote.
“Those in self-quarantine should also be ensured their right to vote. The concern is how to minimise the risk of further infection during the voting process,” Vice-Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told a briefing.
Experts said the government is looking to allow those in quarantine to vote after the polls close at 6pm on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 27 new coronavirus cases yesterday, bringing the national tally to 10,450.
A total of 7,117 people have recovered from the virus, while 3,125 are still receiving treatment.
The national death toll has risen by four to 208.
Candidates who began the official campaigning period earlier this month have been wearing masks, practising social distancing and exchanging fist bumps at individual meetings, shunning the usual handshakes and large rallies.
“Since this is a time to maintain social distance due to coronavirus, we are refraining from large rallies as much as possible and also limiting personal contact during campaigns,” said Mr Lee Nak-yon, a former prime minister who is running for a seat in Parliament.
The head of the main opposition United Future Party, Mr Hwang Kyo-ahn, was spotted disinfecting residential areas.