Only low risk Covid-19 quarantined persons will be allowed to vote
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October 30, 2020
Only low risk Covid-19 quarantined persons will be allowed to vote

Of those persons in quarantine, only those who are considered to be low risk of having Covid-19 will be allowed to vote on Election Day.

This was the decision made at a meeting on Wednesday, which was chaired by the St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Christian Council and included Supervisor of Elections, Dora James; the attorney general, Jaundy Martin; the chief medical officer, Dr Simone Keizer-Beache; and representatives of all political parties contesting in the November 5 general elections.

The Health Services Committee released an advisory last week on the conduct of elections in SVG during the COVID-19 pandemic. This draft document included procedures for voters in quarantine from Day 1 to Day 5 and those in isolation, and voters in quarantine from Day 5 to Day 14.

A specific time was proposed to allow persons in quarantine and isolation to exercise their right to vote, which had to be agreed upon by all political parties.

After Wednesday’s meeting, the chief medical officer told SEARCHLIGHT that “the decision is that only persons from Day 6 to Day 14 [of quarantine] will be granted a medical officer’s order which will specifically state that you can vote between 5 and 5:30pm”.

She added that persons who are in isolation – meaning those who have tested positive for COVID-19 – and persons completing Day 1 to Day 5 of quarantine will not be granted special medical officer’s orders and would therefore be unable to leave quarantine to vote.

The Representation of the People Act stipulates that voting on Election Day should take place between 7:00 am and 5:00 pm.

But Keizer-Beache said she has been advised that once there is consensus, there can be a statutory rule and order declaring an extension of the time.

The chief medical officer explained that persons completing Day 6 to Day 14 of the quarantine period are considered low risk for having Covid-19 as those persons have arrived in country with a negative PCR test, received a negative result from a second test on arrival and also on the completion of their 5-day quarantine period in a Ministry of Health/Tourism Authority approved quarantine facility.

An updated advisory, dated October 28 which outlined the decisions made at Wednesday’s meeting said that there will be no mixing of voters in quarantine with general voters on election day.

James, the supervisor of elections, said that regular voters who are still in the queue at 5 pm waiting to vote will be able to do so.

And the advisory said that in this case, quarantined voters who hold the appropriate medical officer’s order will wait until general voters have voted before entering the line.

“Those persons who are given the order are those persons who are in quarantine and they will vote after persons who are eligible to vote would have voted so there is that gap, that window to give persons who are fearful of being in the space with persons in quarantine and therefore would force them not to come or create that fear where they do not want to turn up to the polls; that should not be,” Supervisor of Elections, Dora James said.

James told SEARCHLIGHT that only persons in quarantine who are eligible to vote and who express an interest in doing so, will be allowed to vote.

She added that no one will be forced to vote.

It is still unclear how many persons will be in Day 6 to Day 14 of quarantine and will be able to vote on Election Day, which is slated for November 5.

The updated advisory said the Health Services Subcommittee will make available to the Electoral Office the names of all travelers 18 years and older who arrived in this country between October 22 and November 4 and were subsequently quarantined.

The Electoral Office will from that list of arrivals, prepare a list of eligible voters who are in quarantine, who will then be provided with a medical officer’s order detailing their quarantine period, which will exclude 5 to 5:30pm on November 5, to allow the holder to leave their quarantine sites to vote.

All eligible voters granted the appropriate medical officer’s order must wear a face mask for the entire duration of the period out of their quarantine site and follow all instructions in terms of spacing and sanitisation.

Eligible voters granted the order must travel to and from the allotted polling station in a vehicle which allows sufficient spacing between the suitably masked voter and suitably masked driver.

The transportation of these voters to and from their quarantine site will be their responsibility, not the Electoral Office or Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment.

The special medical officer order is specifically to facilitate voting. Should an individual break the quarantine otherwise, they are still liable to be prosecuted and fined up to $2000 per offence.