Gloves, Masks and Hand Sanitizer: What Singapore’s Next Vote Will Look Like

(Bloomberg) -- Singaporeans casting their votes in the country’s next general election will have to chose their candidates quickly -- in polling stations they’ll register, sanitize their hands, put on disposable gloves and vote, ideally in less than five minutes.

They will also have to avoid contact with election officials in new guidelines aimed at ensuring safety during the coronavirus pandemic, the city-state’s elections department said on Monday. Singapore, which has the highest number of reported virus infections in Southeast Asia, has given hints the election may happen soon.

If Singapore does go to the polls in the coming months, it will be the second Asian nation to conduct a general election during the pandemic, following South Korea’s vote in April.

Here’s a breakdown of other new measures:

  • All voters will have their temperature screened at the start of the queue to detect those with fever or respiratory symptoms. Candidates and polling agents will also screened if they wish to enter the polling station. Anyone with fever or respiratory symptoms will be refused entry.
  • Safe distancing at polling stations will be enforced at all times for voters waiting to enter the polling stations and while they are inside. Election officials and polling agents will be seated at least one meter apart.
  • More polling stations will be introduced to cut number of voters at each voting center, increasing from 1,100 from 880 while the number of voters per station will be reduced to 2,400 from an average of 3,000.
  • Singapore will equip election officials with protective gear such as surgical masks, disposable gloves, face shields and pocket-sized hand sanitizers. Workers will clean “common touch-points” like polling booths and pens within the polling area at least once every half hour. After the close of polling, cleaners will thoroughly disinfect the polling stations.
  • Singaporeans are advised not to vote if unwell.

The elections department also announced tougher rules for paid internet election advertising, following the misuse of election advertising in countries like the U.K. and Indonesia. These include making it mandatory to declare when and where the ads will be displayed and who paid for them, while candidates must also state expenses related to them.

The new rules come after parliament last month passed a “special arrangements” bill that includes new measures to allow voters under Covid-19 stay orders to cast their ballot outside their electoral divisions. It also gives aspiring candidates the power to authorize a representative to file nomination papers on their behalf.

While Singapore’s next general election is required to be held by mid-April, it could do so before then. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat told local media recently the sooner the election is held, the sooner its citizens can rally to deal with long-term issues and uncertainties that face the country.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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