Singapore GE2020: ELD urges candidates to follow safe distance rules

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, an outgoing MP for Nee Soon GRC, with potential candidate Carrie Tan on a visit to Chong Pang Market and Food Centre on Sunday. The ELD said the same MOH guidelines for the public will also apply to candida
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, an outgoing MP for Nee Soon GRC, with potential candidate Carrie Tan on a visit to Chong Pang Market and Food Centre on Sunday. The ELD said the same MOH guidelines for the public will also apply to candidates.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Singapore Democratic Alliance president Desmond Lim, with party member and potential candidate Harminder Pal Singh, on a walkabout at a coffee shop in Pasir Ris on Monday. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, an outgoing MP
Singapore Democratic Alliance president Desmond Lim, with party member and potential candidate Harminder Pal Singh, on a walkabout at a coffee shop in Pasir Ris on Monday. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Parties advised to set a good example and nudge their supporters in the right direction

Political parties and candidates are being enlisted to ensure the safety of voters at the hustings, with the Elections Department (ELD) urging them to not only keep a safe distance themselves but to also advise their voters to do so.

This means that when voters or supporters become too effusive and the parties are unable to control the crowd, they may want to consider disengaging and leaving the area in the interest of public health, the ELD said yesterday.

A day after the Writ of Election was issued, outreach activities were ramped up and yesterday, the ELD gave more details on how potential candidates should conduct themselves during nomination proceedings and campaigning.

There were rules set out in the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020, and also best practices.

At an online media briefing attended by ELD representatives as well as National Environment Agency chief executive officer Tan Meng Dui, who will be the election's Returning Officer, the ELD said that said the same Ministry of Health (MOH) guidelines that apply to the public will also apply to the political candidates.

An issue that has caused confusion is the wearing of masks, with some candidates keeping them on at all times and others removing them when posing for photos.

Yesterday, the ELD said candidates have to follow the MOH's rules on mask wearing, and they should keep their masks on when they are taking photos or talking to others.

An exception to the mask rule is when candidates are eating or drinking at hawker centres. Even then, they should minimise talking as a best practice, to reduce the risk of droplets spreading, the ELD added.

Another instance where they may remove their masks is when they are recording, say a doorstop interview, for only a few minutes, and this is done in places where they can keep a safe distance of at least 1m away from others.

In these situations, all other individuals around the candidate who is speaking should keep their masks on, said the ELD.

But it is best if candidates keep their masks on in these situations, the ELD added. "This is especially so when in settings where it may be difficult to maintain safe distancing or comply with other safe management measures."

It also advised candidates to bring masks, adding that misplacing or forgetting to bring masks out is not a reasonable excuse for not wearing one in public.

Since the general election was called on Tuesday, many parties have hit the campaign trail on walkabouts while keeping their groups to no more than five people. Most have also kept to the rules of maintaining a 1m distance from others.

The ELD acknowledged this, saying it shows that campaigning can be done while respecting the safety measures that have been put in place to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.

 
 
 

It called on the political parties to set a good example, and nudge their supporters in the right direction.

Some of its suggestions were for candidates and volunteers to keep interactions with the public transient and to avoid handshakes, high fives and fist bumps to minimise physical contact.

In addition, they should leave a location when the crowd becomes unmanageable, and ensure that people do not crowd around to collect fliers or election paraphernalia.

Safe distancing measures should be put in place, if people are standing in a queue or at a table to collect the items, it added.

Members of the public can play their part too, said the ELD, suggesting that people watch political broadcasts at home, and avoid gathering or loitering near nomination centres during nomination proceedings.

 
 
 

When candidates and volunteers visit, people should also allow into their home only up to five visitors, all of whom should be masked up.

Encouraging candidates to take their temperature daily and to stay home if they are unwell, the ELD said: "All political parties and candidates are strongly encouraged to exercise positive leadership and set a good example to the public, by following these best practices.

"Political parties and candidates must also follow advice from safe distancing ambassadors and safe distancing enforcement officers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2020, with the headline 'ELD urges candidates to follow safe distance rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe