A number of special voting booths will be set up on the March 2 election day for Israelis who are suspected of having contracted the coronavirus and are under self-quarantine in their homes, the Central Elections Committee said on Monday.
The decision came during a meeting of senior officials from the Health Ministry and the Central Elections Committee that debated how the deadly coronavirus might impact voting in the coming elections.
According to Army Radio, the Health Ministry is set to announce new guidelines for those under self-quarantine, allowing them to venture out in order to vote.
The report said observers at the special voting stations will be wear protective gear to prevent them from contracting the virus. The voting stations will be located, among other places, inside hospitals.
After the meeting, the Central Elections Committee said in a statement that “the Health Ministry is the professional body that is responsible for protecting and looking after the public.”
According to Health Ministry officials, there are a few dozens Israelis currently under self-imposed quarantine in the country.
The new voting arrangements came a day after the Health Ministry said Israelis returning from four destinations in East Asia will now be required to self-quarantine for two weeks amid concerns over the spread of the novel disease. Travelers returning from Thailand, Singapore and the semi-autonomous Chinese cities of Hong Kong and Macau must remain in isolation, the ministry said. Previously, only travelers coming from China were subject to such a self-quarantine.
East Asian countries, and in particular, Thailand, are popular destinations among Israeli backpackers.
Among those who will be affected by the self-quarantine on election day is Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who is set to return to Israel from Singapore later this week.
During the Monday meeting, concerns were also raised that fears of the epidemic could be used to depress voting in some areas with the dissemination of fake news reports of infections, Channel 12 television news reported.
Officials discussed scenarios in which a political party or candidates for the Knesset would use false reports of coronavirus cases in areas where they have low support in an attempt to scare voters away from the ballot boxes.
A hotline will be set up to provide information for voters who are worried about visiting polling stations due to the virus, the officials said.
Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, originated in China, where it has killed over 1,700 people and infected tens of thousands. Hundreds of cases have also been found in other countries around the world, and some of the patients have died.
Israel is heading for its third election within a year after two previous votes failed to break a political deadlock.
The day before the September vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party installed dozens of cameras outside polling stations in Arab cities, and then leaked that fact to the media, apparently as part of a bid to discourage members of the minority group from voting.
Likud had been prohibited from providing its representatives inside Arab polling stations with cameras, as it did during the previous vote, in April, when the party equipped some 1,200 representatives in Arab towns with hidden cameras to monitor the vote.
Likud at the time claimed the action was aimed at stymieing voter fraud, which it has alleged is rampant in Arab communities. But critics charged that the party’s efforts were a form of voter intimidation designed to keep the non-Jewish minority from the polls, a claim seemingly corroborated by the company contracted by Likud to carry out the operation.