By Andrés Sánchez Braun
Seoul, Apr 15 (efe-epa).- South Korea is holding elections amid strict measures to prevent a new outbreak of coronavirus after the Asian country brought its infection rate under control.
The voting will determine 300 seats in the National Assembly and also indicate how the public feels the current leader Moon Jae-in and his liberal government have handled the pandemic.
Strict measures have been imposed at the polling booths with voters ordered to wear masks, gloves, disinfect their hands with gel and keep a minimum distance between individuals.
They must also have their temperature taken before entering, with anyone above 37.5C barred from voting.
One voter Park Cheol-woo, 25, told Efe at a polling station in the Seodaemun district in Seoul: “When I arrived and saw so many officials taking charge of taking temperatures and cleaning our hands I was calmer.”
Authorities have managed to control the spread of the virus in South Korea, which for the past week has had around 30 new daily infections and has registered around 75 per cent of the country’s 10,600 cases.
Since the first major outbreak was detected in late February, South Korea has gone from being the second-most affected country in the world to flattening its contagion curve in just three weeks.
This has been thanks to a program that combines wide-scale testing of the population, exhaustive monitoring of infection routes and general hospitalisation.
The country’s 14,330 voting centres opened their doors on Wednesday at 6 am local time and will be operational for 12 hours.
Around 44 million South Koreans have been called to the polls, although many of those abroad have not been able to cast their vote because of disruption in countries badly affected by the virus.
There are around 2,700 people in South Korea infected by the virus and although some have not been able to vote, the country’s National Election Commission installed polling stations in the eight largest medical centres.
Those in quarantine because they have recently come from abroad or had direct contact with an infected person have also been able to vote.
Some 13,000 of the approximately 50,000 people in isolation in South Korea have applied to vote, with special conditions and specific hours to avoid infection spreading.
Participation was at around 60 per cent by 4 pm local time, almost 10 percentage points higher than at the same time during the last election four years ago, the NEC reported.
Moon’s party was the favourite to win the majority of seats, as his popularity has risen in recent weeks over his reaction to the pandemic, according to polls. EFE-EPA