South Korea polls open under strict coronavirus measures
Edward White in Wellington
The polls have opened in South Korea’s legislative elections on Wednesday morning with strict anti-coronavirus protections in place across the country.
South Korea, which has been praised for its use of mass testing, high-tech contact tracing and widespread self-isolation measures, on Tuesday reported 27 new cases, down from a peak of more than 900 in late February. But the voting for the country’s 300-seat National Assembly comes as Seoul’s health officials continue to urge caution over the risk of further outbreaks.
Mask-wearing voters entering more than 14,000 polling stations must stand at least one metre apart from their fellow citizens, have their temperature checked and wear plastic gloves.
To further minimise the risk of infections, special locations have been set up for anyone with a body temperature above 37.5 degrees or respiratory problems — symptoms of Covid-19 — as well as for those already in medical facilities and quarantine to cast their ballot away from the general public. An extensive early voting system was held over recent weeks to maximise voter participation among those worst-affected by the virus.
The elections are viewed by many experts as a referendum on the handling of the coronavirus outbreak by Moon Jae-in, the president, his government, and the Democratic party which currently holds the biggest share of seats in the National Assembly with 120.
Recent polling has suggested that the government’s containment of what was one of the worst outbreaks outside of China, and subsequent international praise, will buoy the leftwing and progressive candidates affiliated with Mr Moon and the Democratic party.