Jamaica is looking into the possibility of allowing persons in quarantine to vote, as the nation gears up for the General Election on September 3, amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This was disclosed by the island’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, during Thursday’s (August 13) weekly virtual COVID Conversations press briefing at the Ministry of Health and Wellness in New Kingston.
“Of course this is new to us in terms of the planning for how it is that we operate. We are looking at the experiences of other countries, how they have handled this situation and our discussions right now are looking at allowing persons who are in quarantine to vote, ensuring that all precautions are adhered to,” she disclosed.
“We also have to look at the communities that are in quarantine to see what are the guidelines and we have to work with the Electoral Office [of Jamaica] to see how voting in communities in quarantine can be facilitated in terms of their safe movement,” the CMO added.
Currently, six persons of interest are in State quarantine while some 26,239 persons of interest are quarantined at home.
As it relates to voting for persons in isolation, Dr. Bisasor McKenzie said that this would be ill-advised, but noted that the matter will also be discussed.
“I would want to say that a person that is in isolation is a person that is a threat to public health. Therefore, for us to allow that person to leave their facility of isolation and to go into the public, knowingly, as a public health team, that would be very unwise,” the CMO said.
“This is a public health threat and I think that is the first thing that would be prominent in everybody’s mind. Therefore, we are not going to be putting the public health at risk, certainly not knowingly… to allow persons in isolation to vote,” she emphasized.
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, said he is concerned about the risks that would be involved in allowing persons in isolation to vote. He said that in addition to the health risks, the democratic process would be compromised “as persons would be scared to vote and would possibly be deprived of their right to vote”.
Further, Dr. Tufton noted: “The truth is that any contagious disease, whether it’s COVID or anything else, in these cases, persons have to be restricted from participating in that kind of process.”
Additionally, he pointed out that there are persons who are unable to participate in the voting process, for example, those who are incarcerated, and so it not unusual to have parts of the population not voting depending on the particular circumstances.