October 18, 2021

Updated lockdown rules recommended for SA local elections

Some of the key concerns and recommendations include:

After the announcement on Monday that this year 1 November will be a public holiday due to the local elections, the Department of Health published a new advisory with lockdown recommendations for the local elections.

The recommendations were made by health experts on the Covid—19 Ministerial Advisory Committee (Mac) and suggest that curfew and gathering restrictions be relaxed on election day itself but that stricter enforcement should be adopted in the run-up to the local elections to prevent superspreaders.

“Mass gatherings, whether planned or spontaneous, with respect to some election activities, have the potential to increase the risk of transmission. It is envisaged that for the scheduled election date the rollout of the vaccine programme will not have reached sufficient people to have achieved the targeted coverage, even in higher risk populations. A number of interventions are needed to ensure safe municipal elections, respecting the public’s right to engage in the democratic process as well as their right to be protected against preventable harm,” the committee said.

Some of the key concerns and recommendations include:

  • Gatherings: Rallies, as well as house-to-house campaigning in the run-up to the elections, might create outbreak clusters, and compliance with public health and social measures as well as Covid-19 management requirements needs to be monitored by the IEC. In particular, the role of the South African Police Service (SAPS) in enforcing compliance needs to be emphasised.
  • Curfew: Limitations on the number of people allowed at gatherings must be applied consistently to all pre-election activities, including rallies and campaign events. However, such limits and curfews should be relaxed on election day to allow all eligible voters to cast their ballots before midnight.
  • Alcohol: Consideration should be given to the limitation of alcohol sales on Election Day.
  • Screening: The final IEC guidelines should conform with the guidance provided in this advisory and applicable occupational health and safety regulations. There should be screening and occupational health and safety rules for the staff working at voting stations. For these voting stations located at schools, IEC staff should clean up and remove waste materials so there is no need to visit the voting station the following day when regular school can thus proceed.
  • Masks: The enforcement of all public health and social measures, including the wearing of masks, social distancing, sanitising of hands, and increased ventilation, in all indoor and outdoor settings. These must be emphasised and clearly communicated to the public and all political parties. These public health and social measures will apply irrespective of whether a member of the public has been vaccinated or not.
  • Cleaning: Fogging is not an effective measure to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and should not be undertaken at voting stations. Consideration should be given to providing an alternative to inking pens used to touch the thumbs of multiple voters. The IEC needs to ensure masking, ventilation, sanitisation and other public health and social measures inside stations and ablution facilities. SAPS needs to ensure adherence to public health and social standards outside of voting stations. A Covid-19 compliance officer could be provided together with the electoral officer at each voting station.
  • Vaccines: Efforts to encourage vaccine uptake in the period leading to elections should also be increased. Consideration should be given to identifying vaccination opportunities, such as offering vaccinations at voting stations.

Sources: BusinessTech, Business Insider

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