Health Guidelines for Election | Daily News


Health Guidelines for Election

Part 1
Ink will be applied using a brush. (Pictures by Wimal Karunathilaka and  Anuradha Priyadarshana, Karandeniya Corr.)
Ink will be applied using a brush. (Pictures by Wimal Karunathilaka and Anuradha Priyadarshana, Karandeniya Corr.)

The Health and Indigenous Medical Services Ministry has issued the health guidelines for conducting the election amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. The purpose of these guidelines is to outline the special health requirements to be adopted during any election, to protect the public, election staff and other persons involved in election from possible Covid-19 infection.

The transmission of the disease happens by droplets produced during coughing, talking, sneezing or even exhalation by infected persons. These droplets can travel up to a distance of one metre.

Transmission can happen in two ways:

Direct – person-to-person transmission by direct contact with an infected person. (eg: hugging or shaking hands). The virus can enter the body through the nose, mouth or eyes.

Indirect – When an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales, droplets of infected fluid may get released and contaminate nearby surfaces and objects such as desks, tables, telephones and computers. An uninfected person may contract the virus by touching these surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Voters will have to wash hands before casting their votes.

Control of the following situations is important in preventing disease transmission:

1.1 Movement of people between districts before the election

People move from their workplaces to their hometowns just before the day of the Election. This poses a risk of transmission of the disease. Hence if postal voting or advance voting could be arranged for police, Armed Forces and government institutions where large number of workers are accommodated and employed, it will greatly help to minimise transmission. The Elections Commission may consider offering this facility to large private sector institutions as well. The extension of advance voting or postal voting is recommended only if it does not delay the holding of the election.

1.2 Attendance of staff

Officers in charge of any operation such as training, polling booths and counting centers should ensure that any of the following categories of staff are not called for or report for duty or training:

Those who are under quarantine for Covid-19.

Those who have not completed 14 days of the post-quarantine period.

1.3 Practise the following measures in all settings

It is important to practise the following basic measures to protect everyone from this disease: (1) Wear a facemask. (2) Keep a distance of one metre from another person. (3) Wash with soap and water or sanitize hands as frequently as possible.

(4) Use a tissue when you cough and sneeze. (4) Avoid touching the face, nose, mouth or eyes.

2.1 Propaganda meetings

2.1.1 It is recommended to use print and electronic media, especially television, for election propaganda and minimise physical meetings to avoid exposure.

2.1.2 If propaganda meetings are held, the number of participants shall be limited to a maximum of 100.

2.1.3 Processions are not recommended.

2.1.4 Organizers shall inform the area MOH at least three days before starting the meeting.

2.1.5 All participants shall wear facemasks at all times and chairs for meetings shall be arranged to maintain a one-meter distance.

2.1.6 A spacious venue shall be selected so as to maintain the required distance. Maintain adequate ventilation in the venue.

2.1.7 Speakers shall also maintain a one-metre distance with each other.

2.1.8 Distribution of handbills is discouraged during meetings.

2.1.9 Microphones shall be disinfected after a speaker speaks.

Socially distanced seating at an election meeting.
Voters will have to observe social distancing rules.
The temperature of all voters will be checked.   
Hand sanitizer facilities will also be available .

2.1.10 Duration of a meeting shall be restricted to three hours to minimise exposure.

2.1.11 The person/organisation who organises the meeting shall keep a record of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all attendees.

2.2 Distribution of propaganda materials to households

2.2.1 It is recommended to limit the number of visitors to three persons at a time.

2.2.2 Any person with fever and with or without respiratory symptoms shall not participate in this activity.

2.2.3 Everyone participating shall wear masks and maintain a one-metre distance with each other at all times.

2.2.4 The person distributing handbills shall sanitize hands before and after each session.

2.2.5 It is not recommended that propaganda team members enter any house.

2.2.5 A record of the route visited with details of roads and byroads should be kept at the office of the candidate.

2.3 Election offices

Everyone shall follow the guidelines mentioned in Sections 1.2 and 1.3 as well as the following:

2.3.1 Candidates shall limit the number of election offices to reduce the gathering of people.

2.3.2 Candidates shall limit the opening hours to only accommodate essential work.

2.3.3 Shall limit the number of persons inside the office to a minimum possible at any time.

2.4 Training sessions

2.4.1 Provide hand washing with soap and water or hand sanitizing facilities at the entrance to the training venue.

2.4.2 Running water from a pedal operated sink is preferred.

2.4.3 Invite only the minimum number of officers required.

2.4.4 Select and arrange the venue in such a way as to maintain a one-metre distance between participants and adequate ventilation.

2.4.5 All trainers, participants and other staff shall wear masks. Minimise distribution of printed materials as much as possible and transmit them electronically prior to the training.

2.4.6 Do not serve refreshments during the training session.

2.4.7 Refreshments are to be provided preferably in a place with good ventilation and adequate space to maintain physical distancing.

2.4.8 Hand-washing facilities with soap shall be available in the area where refreshments and meals are served.

2.5 Checking and bundling of ballot papers at District Returning Offices

2.5.1 Select a spacious place for this activity so that a physical distance of one metre could be maintained between officers at all times.

2.5.2 Station officers in a straight line and avoid positioning them at round tables.

2.5.3 All officers shall wear facemasks.

2.5.4 Avoid exchange of documents as much as possible between officers.

2.5.5 Supply adequate amounts of consumables (eg. papers, gum, stapler machines and ligature materials) to avoid sharing of such things among fellow workers. Each person is to be provided his own set of materials and consumables.

2.5.6 Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water after each session.

2.6 Postal voting

Posting of ballot papers to the certifying officers shall follow the procedure in Section 2.5.

2.7 Casting postal votes

2.7.1 Arrange postal voting for health staff who are monitoring the COVID-19 control activities during the election if it does not require amendments of the relevant Acts.

2.7.2 Consider granting postal voting for all health staff if possible.

2.7.3 Heads of institutions and officers appointed shall ensure that a spacious place (eg. a hall) is selected for casting votes to ensure physical distancing of one metre with each person inside the room.

2.7.4 Reduce the number of persons from political parties to the minimum possible.

2.7.5 All voters shall be informed that if anyone has fever with or without respiratory symptoms, he or she should report for voting as the last voters in a particular session.

2.7.6 Ask the voters to queue at least one meter apart and arrangements shall be made to get them batch-wise to minimise overcrowding.

2.7.7 All officers and voters should wear masks.

2.7.8 A one-meter distance shall be maintained between voters, officers and any other persons present within the premises.

2.7.9 All voters shall wash or sanitize their hands before entering the voting place.

2.7.10 The identity of the person shall be checked without touching the identity card and if touched, the officer should sanitize his hands immediately after.

2.7.11 Voters shall be encouraged to use their own pen or pencil for marking the vote.

2.7.12 Voting cubicles should be sanitized every hour. (Please refer Section 3.2. Will be published in Part 2).

2.7.13 All voters shall wash or sanitize their hands after casting their votes.

2.7.14 Those voters who have fever with or without respiratory symptoms should be allowed to vote at the end of the session. After such voter(s) cast(s) vote(s), all the officers who attended to the voter(s) shall remove their gloves and thoroughly wash the hands with soap and water immediately afterwards.

Disinfect all the furniture and other utensils as described in Section 3.2 (Will be published in Part 2).

2.7.15 All above instructions should be communicated to all voters before starting the postal voting session and should also be displayed onsite.

2.7.16 Responsible officers shall be appointed to supervise the health measures during the whole process of postal voting.

2.8 Handling of polling cards

All officers who handle poll cards at the district returning officer’s office shall follow the guidelines in Section 2.5.

2.9 Polling booths

2.9.1 Arrange the polling booth in such a way that voters enter from one entrance and exit from another side if possible.

2.9.2 Limit the number of agents to polling booth to the minimum.

2.9.3 Mark one-metre distance points in the queue on the floor both inside and outside.

2.9.4 Make a transparent protective screen (may be thick polythene) between the voters and the officials with openings below for official transactions.

2.9.5 Keep the maximum possible distance between officers and the voters.

2.9.6 Arrange polling agent area with one-metre distance between agents and one metre behind the voters’ queue.

2.9.7 The queue of voters should be arranged in such a way as to not get too close to officials or other voters.

2.9.8 Voters shall be provided with hand-washing facilities at the entrance and all voters shall wash or sanitize their hands before entering the polling booth and wear masks.

2.9.9 All officers shall wear masks and wash their hands before entering the polling booth.

2.9.10 Officers shall not touch the identity card or the polling card of the voter; instead, they shall ask the voter to show it. If touched, sanitize hands immediately thereafter.

2.9.11 If finger marking is practiced, ask the voter to hold the fist of the left hand with the little finger pointing out without touching the table. Paint the finger with a cotton bud and dispose of it into a closed bin. Alternatively, a drop of paint could be placed on the fingertip.

2.9.12 Sanitize the voting box each hour including the pen used for voting.

2.9 13 Employ a separate worker to push the ballot papers into the ballot box with a ruler. If the ruler or the person changes the ruler shall be sanitized.

2.9.14 All hand-washing points should be provided with tissues for wiping the hands.

2.9.15 Provide adequate numbers of bins (with a polythene bag inside the bin) to discard used tissues.

2.9.16 Medical Officer of Health (MOH) staff shall sanitize the centre after the voting is over.

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