July 10, 2020 / 4:51 PM / a month ago

Hundreds barred from voting in Spanish regional elections due to COVID-19

MADRID (Reuters) - Some 450 people who recently tested positive for the coronavirus will be unable to vote in elections in the Spanish regions of Galicia and the Basque Country on Sunday, authorities said on Friday.

A worker wearing a protective face mask arranges an urn at a polling station ahead of Basque regional elections on Sunday, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Bilbao, Spain, July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Vincent West

“People with active coronavirus infections, i.e. PCR positive in the previous 14 days ... cannot attend activities in person,” Basque regional health chief Nekane Murga told reporters. “They cannot go to vote.”

There are around 200 such cases across the region, she said, while those awaiting results of a coronavirus test are also barred from leaving their homes until they can rule out infection, she said.

In Galicia, there are 259 people with active cases of the virus who cannot leave their homes to vote, local authorities said.

“This is extremely problematic, and what’s more, it is quite infuriating because it could have been anticipated,” political scientist Pablo Simon wrote on Twitter.

Galician and Basque authorities did not specify what mechanisms, if any, were in place to prevent infected people from turning up to vote.

While a postal ballot is an option in both elections, authorities could not say how many people in isolation had made arrangements to vote by mail.

Both regions had previously scheduled their elections for April but postponed them to July 12 shortly after Spain entered lockdown in early March.

National restrictions were eased on June 21, but a sudden uptick in fresh outbreaks has spooked authorities and triggered local lockdowns in the Basque Country, Galicia and Catalonia.

With more than 2,600 cases diagnosed in the last week, compared with 632 in the second-worst hit region of Madrid, Catalonia has become the new epicentre of the virus in Spain.

Regional leader Quim Torra on Wednesday announced compulsory mask use even when safe distance can be guaranteed, a move followed by similar regulations in the Balearic Islands and Extremadura.

Reporting by Nathan Allen; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Peter Graff

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