Faced with the unprecedented novel coronavirus threat, South Korea is gearing up for its general election with extra caution to ensure voters can exercise their rights while minimizing the risk of person-to-person viral spread at polling stations.
With 43 million eligible voters, the country will hold elections at around 14,300 polling stations nationwide on Wednesday, amid its nationwide social distancing campaign to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Nearly 11.7 million cast their ballots already in two days of early voting until Saturday, according to the National Election Commission.
The election body advised people to wear face masks, wash their hands for over 30 seconds and avoid taking children with them due to their weaker immune systems.
Voters will have their temperatures checked at the entrance and should keep a distance of at least 1 meter from others while waiting to vote.
Those with a high temperature or flu-like symptoms will be sent to a special makeshift polling booth, which will be set up near the entrance, in order to avoid contact with other people.
People without masks will have to use the same polling booth set up for people with a fever or the booth closest to the entrance.
On Wednesday, everyone will be able to buy two protective masks regardless of their year of birth. Under the current national mask rationing system, publicly distributed masks can be purchased only on certain days depending on the final digit of the year of birth.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety decided to double the supply of protective masks to be distributed through designated pharmacies for two days from Tuesday.
Polling stations will be sprayed with disinfectant six hours before voting starts.
After entering the polling station, all voters are required to use hand sanitizer and wear disposable plastic gloves. To confirm identification, the NEC encourages voters to sign on signature pads, although the machine is equipped with fingerprint recognition.
Digital pens and ballot stamps will be cleaned with disinfectant wet wipes after each use, as droplets from coughs or sneezes from an infected person could be left behind on surfaces and then touched by uninfected people.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org