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Poll of apprehensions

The authorities are anticipating around 500 Covid-19 positive, eligible voters to turn up at polling booths.

Published: 08th December 2020 04:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th December 2020 04:46 AM   |  A+A-

Polling officers on duty at Sasthamangalam  polling booth. All arrangements have been made to ensure the smooth conduct of the elections complying with Covid-19 protocols 

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Health experts are anticipating another wave of Covid-19 cases post local body elections. District authorities too have sounded alert during the polls scheduled for Tuesday. TNIE takes a look at the measures taken by health authorities and the district administration to ensure safe polling. On Monday, extensive disinfection drives were carried out across all polling booths

Of the 3,281 polling stations in the district for the upcoming local elections, 2,467 have been allotted in the three-tier panchayats (grama panchayat, block panchayat and district panchayat). Thiruvananthapuram Corporation has around 653 polling booths at all hundred wards and the rest of the four municipalities will have around 167 booths. Each booth will have four polling officials, an attender and a policeman/ woman police. 

Officials on their way to booths after collecting
polling materials from Sarvodaya School at Nalanchira.
The first phase of local body elections will be held on
Tuesday. Distribution of polling materials and PPE
kits began from 8am at centres

However, polling officers, volunteers and staff, who will be present at the polling booths for the conduct of the elections are apprehensive about the raging pandemic.

The authorities are anticipating around 500 Covid-19 positive, eligible voters to turn up at polling booths.“We have a maximum of 500 Covid-positive voters in the district and all of them would not be interested in casting their votes.

We expect a maximum of six voters at the polling booths and we don’t think there is any need to worry over this,” said a senior official of the health department. The district medical office has procured around 36,000 PPE kits for distribution among election officers. The booth agents have also requested for PPE kits. 

Scientific removal of PPEs important
Many officers have complained that they did not get proper training regarding wearing and removal of PPE kits. According to health experts, scientific removal and disposal are vital to preventing spread of infection and any lapse would increase its chances. Joseph Chacko, state president of Kerala Government Medical Officers Association (KGMOA), said that one of the main reasons why healthcare workers started testing positive for Covid-19 is negligence in handling PPE kits.

“It is necessary that the polling officers take a minimum of 30 minutes to remove it, following all the protocols,” said Joseph. Another polling official also highlighted his concerns regarding the handling of Covid-19 positive voters.

“We are not prepared and did not get enough training to deal with them. We have to apply electoral ink on Covid-19 positive voters and we have no idea how we are going to do that. The voter will be wearing a PPE kit and we don’t have much clarity on how to make a physical application,” said an officer. 

Many of them are apprehensive about the timings too. Social distancing norms and other protocols are likely to drag the procedures further. “The election process is likely to extend as we have to avoid crowding. The last one hour has been earmarked for Covid-19 positive voters. There are apprehensions surrounding all this, as we don’t know what to expect,” said the officer. However, health authorities believe that avoiding a second wave of the pandemic is solely the responsibility of polling officers.

IN A NUTSHELL 
Arrangements at polling booths for elderly, disabled, sick and visually impaired voters 
They may vote without standing in the queue. 
Voters will have to strictly maintain social distancing norms, wear masks and sanitise their hands before and after casting their votes. 
Presiding officers will make sure that arrangements are in place including chairs, benches etc
Those needing assistance would be allowed to enter the booth along with a bystander who is 18 years or older.

Instructions for polling officers
Masks to be worn properly covering the nose and mouth 
Never remove the mask while talking 
Change the mask every six hours
Strictly follow social distancing norms
Avoid sharing food and eating in groups
Sanitise hands immediately after coming in contact with any surface
Social distancing norms should be enforced strictly inside the polling stations
Those distributing slips to the voters should wear gloves, masks 
Always carry hand sanitiser 
The polling officers should prepare themselves and realise the fact that anybody among the voters can be Covid-19 positive
Deposit the used mask, PPEs, face shield and gloves in the red bag at the polling booths
After reaching home, polling 
officers should disinfect their clothes and shower before interacting with family members

What to expect at the polling booths? 
Break the chain facilities including soap, water, hand sanitiser etc would be made available to facilitate the voters
All voters will be made to sanitise their hands before and after casting their votes
Avoid touching surfaces 
Remove masks only if its very necessary
Only three voters to be allowed at a time inside the polling booth
Avoid close contact with other voters
Avoid going to the booths in large groups



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