Polling stations 100% safe

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –All polling centres in the 22 Electoral Districts will be much safer from a COVID-19 perspective than any of the other places where people gather, the National Election Commission (NEC) assured yesterday.

“We invite voters to come to the polling centres as these places are 100 per cent COVID-19 free due to the health measures being taken to prevent a possible spread of the virus,” NEC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said.

He was addressing the media at a special press conference held at the Department of Government Information yesterday. According to Deshapriya, the polling centres will be sanitized with the support of the Local Government Commissioners, Local Government institutions, Provincial and Divisional Director Generals of Health Services and PHIs today.

The voters will also be provided with hand sanitizing liquid twice before marking the ballot papers and once before leaving the premises. Voters should bring a black or blue ballpoint pen of their own or if not, a sanitized pen will be provided at the polling booth. “Maintaining a one-metre distance and wearing a face mask is as important as bringing a valid Identity Card,” he pointed out.

“A voter turnout of 75 to 80 percent is expected at tomorrow’s election despite the prevailing COVID-19 outbreak,” the NEC Chairman predicted.

The total number of registered voters for the General Election-2020 is 16,263,885. They will be casting votes at 12,885 centres in 12,774 polling divisions. The ballot boxes for the islandwide polling centres will be issued today.

Health Services Director General Dr. Anil Jasinghe said nearly 8,000 health staffers are being deployed to secure public health and prevent the spread of the virus through the entire electoral process. He said only the Lankapura Cluster is active by now but 942 samples out of 1,200 of this cluster reported negative by last evening.

However, he said those who are under quarantine by the election date will not be allowed to cast votes at the election. But, those who have recovered or are spending a post-quarantine period are allowed to cast votes between 4.p.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow. “There is no social transmission of the disease at present,” Dr. Jasinghe pointed out.

Senior DIG (Elections) Priyantha Weerasuriya said 69,000 Police officers have been deployed for General Election – related duties this year.

There is a decline in the pre-election violent activities compared to the 2015 General Election, he said. No murders, serious injuries or burning of properties were reported this time, he said. According to him it has dropped by 264 cases compared to the 2015 election.

On the Election Day, 3,069 mobile patrols and road blocks will be in effect covering all the polling centres and the counting centres, the Senior DIG said. In addition, the Civil Security Force and the Army will be available to augment security should the need arise.

Meanwhile, the NEC Chief said that the commission has agreed upon a decision to annul the voting at any centre in case of a tense situation or any illegal incident. It has also requested to deploy STF and the Anti-Riot forces in the areas where illegal campaigning and incidents were high during the pre-election period.

The Chairman also requested the social media heads, owners and the administrators to adhere to the law and maintain the silent period imposed by the Commission properly.

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