HK's LegCo polls can proceed if Covid-19 cases remain low, say experts

Govt making plans to impose range of safety measures for voting in Sept 6 election

The Hong Kong government has said it is formulating various plans to prepare for the Legislative Council (LegCo) election on Sept 6 which health experts say can proceed as scheduled if the number of new Covid-19 cases remain low.

Dr Leung Chi Chiu from the Hong Kong Medical Association told The Straits Times that containing local transmissions was crucial.

"In the absence of any local transmission or major outbreak, even if we have imported cases, as long as we can quarantine them successfully, there should not be too much risk of transmission within the community," he said.

Dr Leung, who is chairman of the association's advisory committee on communicable diseases, added that the risk level for the polls would probably be lower than "what we allow in our day-to-day public transport system, in shopping malls during lunchtime".

Epidemiology and biostatistics professor Ben Cowling from the University of Hong Kong agreed that voters could go to the polls if there was "very low incidence of cases".

He suggested that polling include important modifications such as expanding the space available for voting, increasing the distance between voters in queues, making sure queues are in well-ventilated areas, and restricting the number of people in the voting hall at any one time as much as possible.

Hong Kong recorded a total of 1,124 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of yesterday.

In response to a question in Parliament by lawmaker Helena Wong, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang disclosed that the government plans to impose a range of proposed safety measures for the LegCo election.

For example, polling staff, voters and candidates will be required to wear masks.

Those entering voting stations will have to use hand sanitiser and undergo temperature screening, while anyone showing signs of fever will be turned away. Polling staff will have to disinfect polling tables, tick chops and paperboards regularly.

Mr Tsang also said that the Registration and Electoral Office would not set up polling stations in hospitals, but would look into special arrangements to enable voters under compulsory quarantine to go out temporarily to cast their ballots.

 
 
 

Prof Cowling said: "The proposed measures sound quite reasonable and would allow the election to go ahead as planned."

Mr Charles Mok, a lawmaker representing the technology sector, also believes polling "can be done".

"Even for countries like South Korea and so on, they had a major election in April at a time when the pandemic situation there was much more serious than now," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2020, with the headline 'HK's LegCo polls can proceed if Covid-19 cases remain low, say experts'. Print Edition | Subscribe