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Jakarta Post

COVID-19 patients cast votes in Surabaya

  • Ardila Syakriah
    Ardila Syakriah

    The Jakarta Post

Surabaya   /   Wed, December 9, 2020   /   06:58 pm
COVID-19 patients cast votes in Surabaya Medical workers carry a fainted voter during a simulation of regional elections in Banyuwangi, East Java on Sept. 14, 2020. The simulation was held as part of preparation for the 2020 simultaneous regional elections that took place in 270 regions across Indonesia on Dec. 9. (Antara/Budi Candra Setya)

COVID-19 patients isolated at Surabaya's makeshift hospital Lapangan Indrapura cast their ballots in the regional elections on Wednesday. The hospital takes in confirmed cases with no to moderate symptoms.

Anjasmara, 24, said she, along with dozens of female patients in her isolation ward, was informed on Tuesday by the hospital that they would be able to vote and that they needed only to hand in their identity cards.

Anjasmara said a number of local poll administrators (KPPS) in full personal protective equipment, including hazmat suits, were present at two polling booths specifically installed for the voters at the hospital on voting day on Wednesday.

She said, however, the voting system did not seem well-prepared for the pandemic, what with the absence of social distancing and no one telling voters to wash their hands or handing them plastic gloves before casting their votes.

"It was as if they already [felt safe] just by wearing hazmat suits alone," Anjasmara told The Jakarta Post by phone.

"For now, I don't think the regional elections are an urgent matter. I know regional governments have to keep on running, but [elections] can be done later," she added.

Read also: KPU promises safe regional elections

What Anjasmara described differed from the health protocols applied in several polling stations across the city. Before casting their ballots, voters' temperatures were checked and they were told to wash their hands. They were then advised to use their own pens to sign, and were given plastic gloves to cast their ballots.

After voters discarded their gloves, KPPS members dripped ink on voters' fingers as a sign that they had voted. Lastly, voters were told to wash their hands again.

The doctor in charge of the Lapangan Indrapura hospital, IDG Nalendra said officials at the polling station were wearing the most advanced level of PPE when assisting voters so that social distancing “was not necessary”, adding that the hospital had ensured that everything was "already safe".

Makhyan Jibril Al-Farabi of East Java's COVID-19 task force said that 40 COVID-19 patients at the hospital cast their ballots at its former decontamination room. Local election organizers and KPPS members were deployed to the hospital on voting day.

Experts have previously urged for the elections to be suspended amid fears of spikes in COVID-19 cases and also lower voter turnout.

A polling station in Gambir, the subdistrict in Surabaya hardest-hit by the outbreak, only saw 262 of 426 registered voters showing up there.