South Koreans began going to the polls on Wednesday to elect MPs, wearing masks and plastic gloves as part of strict security measures in one of the first national elections held amid the coronavirus pandemic .
Around 14,000 polling stations were open at 6:00 a.m. (9:00 GMT) across the country after disinfection, and voters were required to wear a mask and check the temperature upon arrival. Anyone whose temperature was above 37.5 degrees Celsius (99.5 degrees Fahrenheit) was taken to a special booth.
All voters must use hand sanitizer and plastic gloves when voting and maintain a distance of 1 meter (40 inches) between them.
Elections are expected to decide control of Parliament and shape President Moon Jae-in’s ability to advance his agenda over the past two years of his administration, including a more flexible fiscal policy aimed at creating jobs, raising wages minimum and continued re-engagement with North Korea.
Globally, South Korea was one of the first countries to hold national elections since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, while many others postponed the votes.
“I was worried because the election was not delayed, but having come here and seen for myself, I felt it was good that we voted as planned, and people are taking more precautions to distance themselves and further restrict yourself, “Choi Sun-hwa, 56, told a polling station in Hongje-dong in central Seoul to Reuters.
After dealing with the first major outbreak outside of China, South Korea has largely managed to contain its cases without major disruption thanks to a massive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing.
Korean centers for disease control and prevention reported 27 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections to 10,564. The daily count has hovered around 30 over the past week, most from of overseas travelers.
But authorities warned that infections could reoccur at any time, calling for special caution on election day.
At 9 a.m. (1200 GMT), the turnout was 8%, about 0.9% higher than in the last legislative elections in 2016, according to the National Election Commission. That excludes almost 27% of the 44 million registered voters who participated in the advance poll last weekend.
Among them, around 2,800 patients with coronavirus, for whom the NEC authorized voting by post and set up special polling stations for early voting.
More than 13,000 people in autonomous quarantine have registered to vote and will be authorized to do so after the departure of the other voters at 6:00 p.m. (2100 GMT)
The election campaign took on a different look, with candidates wearing masks and punches instead of squeezing the flesh and mass rallies.