With COVID-19 cases at record highs, the Parliamentary Registration Department has announced measures intended to keep voters safe at polls on Thursday.
“In furtherance of its obligation as mandated by the [Parliamentary Elections] Act, the department will ensure, through a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Health, that all necessary health and safety protocols and precautions are enforced on Election Day…” the department said in a statement yesterday.
The department noted that election workers “were encouraged to be vaccinated — or at least have begun the vaccination process”.
But it is unclear how many of them are vaccinated.
It also noted that all voters, poll workers and election agents are required to always wear a face mask while in the polling place.
“Face masks or other face (nose and mouth) coverings must be properly worn,” the department said.
“Face shields were distributed to election staff/poll workers for additional protection.”
The statement noted that campaigners will not be allowed on premises within 100 yards of the polling places, and polling sites must maintain a register of all poll workers at each polling station, which lists their full names, shift times and contact numbers.
The statement noted that classrooms used for voting will be a minimum of 30 feet by 25 feet “and where possible, larger rooms will be used”.
“Individual workstations should be at a distance of three to six feet,” the department said.
It said all rooms will be properly sanitized before and after Election Day.
“Each location used as a polling site and the allocated classrooms utilized as a polling division should have the advantage of natural ventilation with opened doors and windows to allow for airflow,” it said.
Hand sanitizing stations will also be available throughout the polling sites.
“Surface areas within ballot booths and pencils will be sanitized throughout the day,” the department said.
The announcement of the protocols came after the government said on Sunday night that people in quarantine who are registered to vote will be allowed to leave quarantine to vote on Election Day.
The Bahamas is dealing with a relentless surge in COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
With 1,883 COVID cases still active as of Saturday, and an unknown number of contacts of cases in quarantine, it is likely that thousands of voters will be in quarantine on Thursday.
With no special provisions made for thousands of quarantined individuals to vote separately from the rest of the general public, health officials have said it will likely increase the spread of COVID.