Two weeks ago, we told you of the closure of the Elections and Boundaries office after one of their employees passed away and was suspected of having Covid-19. The offices were sanitized and by Wednesday, September 23 it was business as usual. Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai spoke on this case and the way forward with the department.
Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer: “I know that is a matter that is still being discussed but based on the information we gathered from the Ministry of Health- because I will tell you as a department and as a commission it’s not that we even know who those persons are in quarantine but again as long as persons take the proper precautions there should be absolutely no fear. The Director of Health Services will tell you that there are many persons in quarantine who are not positive but just for precautionary measures those persons are in quarantine. So it’s not because you’re in quarantine means that you’re positive and even if you’re positive if you take the proper precautions then you should be safe.”
Reporter: But then if you’re in quarantine you can’t necessarily show up at the polling station.
Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer: “Like I said that would be a matter that the police would have to deal with because we don’t know who is in quarantine or who is not in quarantine those are information that is not provided to anybody so we wouldn’t know that but if those persons are breaking laws in regards to the quarantine regulation then that is something that the police would have to enforce.”
Reporter: Okay but then what about for example you have the new quarantine center in Mountain Pine Ridge, those persons who are there will not be able to vote since they’re in that quarantine facility or is there some proxy vote or some system that will put in to facilitate them ?
Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer: “Like I said so far that is something the commission is still having discussions about but we don’t have any laws in regards to allowing those persons to vote as proxy, well not so far, and also we have to look at how people are being quarantined because how we will conduct the election like I said we are treating everyone as if though they are COVID-19 positive everybody who comes to the polling stations and even our own staff as well.”
As business at the Elections and Boundaries came to a halt due to an in-house case of Covid-19, another burning issue has to do with the voting rights of persons in quarantine. With several persons being held at facilities around the country and the elections coming up, the question is will they be able to cast their vote. Love News sought a response from Tamai.
Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer: “Everything is good thank goodness and again that for me that goes to show that as long as the proper measures are in place and the proper precautions are taken it’s not because you have any contact with the person that it means you would get infected so I’m hoping that persons would understand that and feel safe to come out and vote because we’ve seen in other countries that have had elections that the voter turn out has been very poor and we’re hoping for Belize that would not be the case because I think we still need to do much more education in terms of informing persons how you actually get infected and maybe the information is out there but for some reason people have this fear and we need to try to see how we could take this fear from out of persons because I could be speaking directly with somebody who is COVID-19 positive and as long as I have my mask, I properly sanitize, I keep my social distancing that does not necessarily mean that I will get infected.”