Early voting for South Korea’s president begins in shadow of COVID

SEOUL, March 4 (Reuters) – South Korea began early voting on Friday for a presidential election in the shadow of the pandemic, as up to a million people with COVID-19 are expected to vote in a peak resulting in one of the highest in the world. workloads.

Poll workers have been deployed in protective gear including full suits and safety goggles, and voters with COVID or exposed to the virus will spray hand sanitizers and wear gloves before voting, the election commission says. national.

With more than 800,000 people on home treatment for the coronavirus and nearly 800 in hospital intensive care, government and health officials have sought to accommodate infected voters, including revising the election law last month.

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People who are infected or in quarantine can enter or take taxis or ambulances made available by local offices to polling stations to vote in isolated booths. They have one hour after the second day of early voting and one and a half hours on the last day of Wednesday.

South Korea quickly managed to contain outbreaks and flare-ups through aggressive testing and contact tracing. Although the government’s handling of the pandemic has not been a major campaign focus, last week’s omicron spike is affecting voting as it pushes cases to record highs. On Friday, it broke another record for daily cases and deaths. Read more [nL3N2V704Y]

Voters choose a replacement for liberal President Moon Jae-in, who cannot run for office due to term limits.

Yoon Suk-yeol received a boost on Thursday when a fellow conservative quit and threw his support behind Yoon, in a move that could tip the scales of the hotly contested election away from the ruling liberals. Moon’s ruling party is represented by Lee Jae-myung. Read more

The race focused on finding a leader to clean up polarized politics and corruption, and tackle soaring house prices and widening inequality that have plagued India’s fourth-largest economy. Asia.

Yoon encouraged people with COVID or in isolation to vote, saying they could represent millions out of more than 40 million eligible voters.

Yoon and his rival Lee, as well as President Moon all cast their ballots on Friday morning.

While the pandemic has not prevented large electoral rallies, the main presidential candidates have carried out “contactless” campaigns. Lee met supporters at a drive-in cinema.

Yoon’s main opposition party has launched a phone app that allows voters to watch campaign rallies where its candidate is one of the featured speakers.

South Korea held national elections in 2020 and regional polls last year, with those infected having to mail their ballots or use special polling stations in hospitals. Daily COVID infections numbered in the hundreds at most at that time. This week, they topped 200,000.

But as the number of cases has risen, South Korea has rolled back some restrictions in recent days and suspended the use of a digital tracking system credited with early success in containing the virus.

“The situation has changed a lot since the last general election, with many more cases,” said an official with the disease control agency. “And their political rights must be protected.”

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Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Jack Kim, William Mallard

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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