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It will be an election in the time of COVID 19 – without the crowds and the razzle-dazzle

ECONOMYNEXT – It will be an election in the time of COVID 19 and the concerts and the razzle-dazzle of a typical South Asian poll campaign will not be there.

That’s because the Health Department has given strict guidelines on how the politicians, voters and officials should act when the campaign starts and ends with the count.

There will be no huge rallies and candidates are advised to hold meetings of around 30 people during the campaign for the upcoming Parliamentary General Elections, Chairman of the National Elections Commission Mahinda Deshapriya said.

He told reporters today June 3, that according to the guidelines to hold the election given to him today by the Health Department, the political parties would be advised not to transport voters to rallies as well.

“Keep the meetings small,” will be the advice Deshapriya said.

He said that the aim of the Commission is to hold the elections but not create community transmission of the virus through that.

“Defeat COVID and let democracy win, is our slogan,” he said.

The Commission will meet again on Monday and decide on a date for the elections he said.

Deshapriya said last week that the Commission needs between 60 and 70 days to prepare for the polls making the earliest day for polling around mid-August.

This morning the Commissioners and their staff met a team from the Health Department led by the Director-General Health Services Dr Anil Jasinghe to discuss the precautions that need to be taken during the election process to prevent the spread of COVID 19.

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The Health Department has produced a booklet with detailed illustrated guidelines for Polls staff and the candidates, Deshapriya said.

Earlier Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said the “guidelines give directions as to how officials, as well as political activists, should go about their work,” she said.

“There are guidelines on how election campaign meetings are to be held, how door-to-door canvassing should be conducted and many other matters,” she said.

Deshapriya said that Health Officials have advised him that the COVID 19 threat would be present until the end of next year.

Therefore these guidelines will apply for the Local Government and Provincial Council elections which will be held next year, he added.

He said that all healthcare workers are advised to apply for Postal Votes as many of them would be deployed before and after polling day to assist with the elections process.

“We hope that a team of healthcare workers including a doctor, two nurses and an assistant would be able to supervise a cluster of polling stations,” he said.

The Government Printer has begun printing the ballot papers as of today, officials said. (Colombo, June 3, 2020)