| 21 February 2024, Wednesday |

Early voting for S.Korea president begins in shadow of COVID

In the shadow of the epidemic, South Korea began early voting for a presidential election on Friday, with up to a million people with COVID-19 anticipated to vote during a spike driving one of the world’s biggest caseloads.

According to the national election commission, election officials will wear protective gear such as full-body suits and safety glasses, while voters with COVID or who have been exposed to the virus will spray hand sanitizers and wear gloves before casting ballots.

With almost 800,000 people receiving coronavirus treatment at home and roughly 800 in intensive care, the government and health officials have tried to accommodate afflicted voters, including modifying the election law last month.

Infected or quarantined people can vote in segregated booths by walking in or taking cabs or ambulances provided by municipal agencies. They will be given one hour at the conclusion of the second day of early voting and an hour and a half on Wednesday.

With intensive testing and contact tracking, South Korea was able to limit outbreaks and surges early on. Although the government’s pandemic handling was not a key campaign issue, the recent omicron spike is influencing voting because it has driven cases to new highs. It set a new daily record for cases and deaths on Friday.

Voters are choosing a successor to liberal President Moon Jae-in, who is unable to seek re-election owing to term limits.

On Thursday, Yoon Suk-yeol received a boost when a fellow conservative dropped out and threw his support behind him, potentially tipping the election away from the ruling liberals. Lee Jae-myung represents Moon’s ruling party.

The election has centered on finding a leader who can clean up polarized politics and corruption, as well as address the country’s fourth-largest economy’s soaring house prices and rising inequality.

Yoon has urged COVID or isolated people to vote, claiming that they could number in the millions out of more than 40 million eligible voters.

On Friday morning, Yoon and his competitor Lee, as well as President Moon, cast their votes.


While the pandemic did not preclude large campaign rallies, the front-runners for the presidency have launched “contact-free” campaigns. At a drive-in movie theater, Lee met with supporters.

Yoon’s biggest opposition party has released a phone app that lets viewers to view campaign rallies where its candidate is speaking.

Infected persons were compelled to mail in their ballots or utilize special polling stations at hospitals in South Korea, which has a national election in 2020 and provincial elections last year. COVID infections were in the hundreds on a daily basis at the time. They passed the 200,000 mark this week.

While the number of cases has risen, South Korea has recently relaxed some restrictions and discontinued the use of a digital-tracking system that was credited with the virus’s early containment success.

“Since the last general election, the situation has altered dramatically, with much more instances,” a disease control agency officer stated. “Their political rights must also be safeguarded.”

  • Reuters