Voters in Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital city who are isolating in connection with a COVID-19 outbreak will be able to cast a ballot from their car during Saturday’s provincial election.
Elections NL said Wednesday it will set up a drive-through voting site in St. John’s for people who have been asked by public health to isolate. The set-up will be similar to a drive-through COVID-19 testing site, the elections authority said in a news release.
Earlier in the day, Elections NL announced it was shutting down a district voting bureau within the St. John’s metro area because of a COVID-19 exposure.
Health officials this week confirmed community spread of the disease in the capital. In the past two days, authorities have reported 41 new cases in the eastern health region, which includes the St. John’s metro area.
Authorities on Tuesday announced a two-week closure of St. John’s bars, gyms and cinemas in order to prevent COVID-19 transmission. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, however, said with proper protocols in place, voting in Saturday’s election is no riskier than going to the grocery store.
Progressive Conservative candidate Damian Follett, running in the Mount Scio district in St. John’s, said in a news release Tuesday that he and his family are isolating after his son tested positive for COVID-19. “All in-person contact with residents has been suspended and Damian and his team will continue to reach out by other means,” the release said.
The timing of the election call has been contentious and the escalating COVID-19 case count has only exacerbated concerns. The NDP and Progressive Conservatives have said Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey should have waited until more people in the province had been vaccinated to call an election.
On Wednesday, Furey was forced once again to defend his decision to send voters to the polls in February. Other provinces have safely voted during the pandemic, he said. “We’ve seen it in other jurisdictions with a higher burden of the disease,” he told reporters.
He said that according to provincial legislation, he had to call an election before Aug. 19, 2021, which is the one-year anniversary of his swearing-in as Liberal party leader and premier.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2021.