Stating that some health guidelines issued originally with regard to the forthcoming parliamentary elections have been changed in the gazetted version, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), is asking the Minister of Health and Indigenous Medicine and the Director General of Health Services, what steps they will take if the relaxing of guidelines contributes to a worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CMEV, states that there are considerable changes in the version gazetted on July 17, from the original set of guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health on June 9 this year.
While welcoming the gazetting of the guidelines, the CMEV lists the following as the changes from the original set of rules, in a statement released this evening (July 19).
- the maximum number of persons permitted to attend a meeting has been increased from 100 to 300, and 500 if the party leader is attending
- the maximum number of persons permitted to engage in door-to-door canvassing has been increased from 3 to 5
- numerous provisions in the original guidelines have been omitted from the gazetted regulations altogether, including provisions relating to: checking and bundling of ballot papers at District Returning offices (section 2.5 of the original guidelines); polling booths (2.9); conducting election in the quarantine centres (2.10); receiving ballot boxes at counting centres (2.11); counting centre etiquette (2.12); results tabulation centres (2.13); transport of staff and materials (2.14); special instructions for Police officers (3); disinfection (4); waste disposal (5); after the election (6). Also missing is the Health Administrative Structure outlined in section 7 to implement the guidelines.
The CMEV points out that the Health Ministry has gazetted the election related health guidelines 38 days after the “Health Guidelines for Conducting the Elections amidst a COVID-19 Outbreak” (the original guidelines) were issued, and states that it is alarmed by the changes made, particularly because the COVID-19 pandemic “appears to be worsening.’
“Relaxing physical campaigning restrictions is likely to expose more voters to COVID-19 through increased campaigning activities. Relaxing the restrictions on meeting attendance depending on the attendance of party leaders seems especially illogical,” says the CMEV.
Therefore, it is calling on the Minister of Health and Indigenous Medical Services and the Director-General of Health Services to:
- Gazette the remaining provisions in the originally published guidelines, and
- Provide an explanation to the voting public about why the originally published guidelines have been relaxed in this manner, and what steps they will take if the relaxed guidelines contribute to the pandemic situation becoming worse
- Work with healthcare workers, particularly PHI’s, to resolve existing issues and to promote the regulations and educate the public.