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Political Leaders Plead For Strict Adherence To COVID-19 Rules At Polling Stations

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Source: Jamaica Gleaner


Image caption: Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) and Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips elbow bump in a display of camaraderie to conclude last night's leadership debate, the final in the three-part General Election Debates organised by the Jamaica Debates Commission.

As voting begins tomorrow for the country's next government, the nation's two political leaders are pleading with electors to strictly adhere to COVID-19 protocols in order to avoid a further surge in infections. 

Jamaica has recorded another death from the disease, bringing the toll, since March 10, to 20 fatalities; and there were 102 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 2,113. 

The security forces and election day workers will vote tomorrow, while the rest of the nation will vote on Thursday.

"I want to urge all Jamaicans and the supporters and members of the People's National Party (PNP) to consider their safety. Wear your mask, sanitise, maintain social distance; be safe, so that you can protect yourself and your families and come out on election day," said Opposition Leader and president of the PNP Dr Peter Phillips as last night's General Election Debate drew to a close at the Creative Production and Training Centre in Kingston. 

"Jamaica needs all its people to build on this future, which we all seek when the election is over," he concluded. 

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who leads the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, similarly pleaded with electors to take all the necessary precautions. 

"We encourage all Jamaicans to come out and vote, but first we encourage you to be conscious that we are in a pandemic. So when you come to the polling station, develop the situational awareness that you need to social-distance. Now is the time, more than ever, when we need to stand in line six feet apart," he said. 

He urged voters to also be conscious that the elderly and persons with underlying ailments will be in line to vote and they should be given priority. He urged electors to ensure they are wearing masks and to travel with their own hand sanitisers. 

Cabinet and the attorney general are to meet to decide whether persons with COVID-19 will be allowed to vote in the election.

A draft document by the Ministry of Health and Wellness indicates its thinking on the matter. It believes persons under home quarantine can be allowed to vote with adherence to strict precautions, given that they may be pre-symptomatic. They must ensure that they wear a mask; wash and sanitise their hands frequently, as well as maintain a distance of no less than six feet away from other people, the ministry said. They must also ensure that they abide by the protocols at polling stations and report immediately if they have symptoms to polling officers. 

However, the ministry outlined that persons who have tested positive for the disease and have been isolated should not be discharged, whether from home or government facilities, and they should be reported to the police if they breach quarantine orders. 

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