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Singapore election

Singapore bars voting by COVID-19 patients and those in quarantine

New rule affects about 350 people ahead of July 10 election

An opposition Progress Singapore Party volunteer hands out leaflets June 28. Candidates in Singapore's July 10 general election are barred from holding campaign rallies due to the coronavirus.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- COVID-19 patients and voters in quarantine suspected of having the coronavirus will not be permitted to cast a ballot in the July 10 general election, Singaporean authorities said Wednesday.

As of Tuesday, about 350 Singaporeans would be prevented from voting under the new rule, which the country's Elections Department called a precaution against the spread of the virus.

The decision was met with little apparent criticism from the public. Singapore does not allow voting by mail or online.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong set the election in motion on June 23, declaring Singapore's coronavirus outbreak "stable." But he told citizens to prepare for polls "like no other that we have experienced."

The government has announced strict measures against infections at the polls. A voting time of 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. has been set aside for individuals who recently returned from abroad and are in self-quarantine, or who have existing respiratory conditions or symptoms like fever.

Polling site staff will wear protective suits and disinfect the rooms more frequently during this time.

Candidates are barred from holding campaign rallies, traveling in entourages of more than five people and standing within 1 meter of supporters, among other restrictions.

These rules create a higher hurdle to victory for opposition parties, which will have fewer chances to make their voices heard by voters in person. Lee's ruling People's Action Party held 93% of the seats in parliament and has been in power since before Singapore's independence in 1965.

The voting rule is based on a law enacted in May that provides no exception for elections to coronavirus-related restrictions.

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