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South Korea braces for another Covid-era national election

SEOUL — South Korea, experiencing its biggest surge of Covid-19 yet, will set aside a 90-minute window only for voters with the coronavirus to vote at polling stations next month.

The recent rise in coronavirus cases had raised questions about how the country’s close presidential election would play out. Lawmakers agreed this week to set aside 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on March 9, Election Day, for voters with Covid. The rest of the electorate will vote from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Protecting everyone’s right to vote is paramount,” Dr Jung Jae-hun, a professor who is a Covid-19 policy adviser to the prime minister, said in an interview. “It is entirely possible to do this while preventing epidemics.”

The National Electoral Commission reported on Thursday that interest in voting in the upcoming elections was at its highest level since 2012, showing that surging coronavirus infections may not be dampening turnout.

Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party and Yoon Suk-yeol of the opposition People Power Party are neck and neck.

About 44 million eligible voters reside in South Korea, according to the election commission. But at the rate infections are rising, up to a million could have Covid by Election Day, according to Dr Jung, who is also a professor of preventive medicine at Gachon University near Seoul.

Government health protocols require people with Covid to stay in isolation at home. The special time window on Election Day would allow them to leave to vote.

South Korea’s daily case count was 93,135 on Thursday. By comparison, in the last national election of the coronavirus era, in 2020, the government reported less than 40 new infections per day.

The Omicron variant has so overwhelmed South Korea’s public health system that the government this week dropped its use of mobile QR codes for contact tracing, leaving individuals responsible for alerting close contacts if they are tested. positive.

Some legal experts and officials have said the government should provide more ways for people with coronavirus to vote. Young-Soo Chang, a law professor at Korea University, said the government should have allocated two time slots instead of one.

nytimes Gt

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