S.Korea to allow absentee voting for coronavirus patients in parliamentary elections

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South Korea will allow coronavirus patients to vote by mail or as an absentee in this month’s parliamentary elections, as campaigning started on Thursday and the country grappled with a steady rise in new infections.

Voters will go to the polls on April 15 to elect 300 members of the National Assembly for the next four years, posing challenges over how to prevent a spread of the coronavirus at polling places while ensuring people’s right to vote.

The some 4 000 patients receiving treatment will be able to case their ballot via mail or early absentee voting, Interior Minister Chin Young said.

“We will guarantee the confirmed patients’ right to vote as much as possible,” he told a briefing, adding the government was still exploring measures for those who have not tested positive but are self-quarantined.

A two-week campaign period for the election began on Thursday with candidates wearing masks and shunning handshakes and large rallies.

The National Election Commission has said all voters must wear a mask when they go to the polling stations, use sanitisers and gloves available there, and maintain distance with others.

Officials will conduct temperature checks at the entrance and regular disinfection work.

Citizens living in some 50 countries suffering major epidemics, including the United States and many countries in Europe, will not be able to vote as South Korea does not allow overseas residents to vote by mail.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 89 new cases on Thursday, taking the national tally to 9 976.

A total of 5 828 have recovered from the virus, while 4 148 are still receiving treatment