French mayoral elections to go ahead despite coronavirus outbreak – ‘Voting is safe’

The flu-like disease, thought to have emerged in central China late last year, has infected more than 15,800 people and killed over 4,200 worldwide. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner insisted on Tuesday that “voting is safe” in a bid to persuade people to take part in Sunday’s crunch municipal elections, despite growing fears over the worsening coronavirus epidemic. “Voting is safe,” Mr Castaner said in a statement, in which he stressed that the March 15-22 elections would be held “in the best sanitary conditions”.

He said: “The government, with the support of mayors and polling booth chairpersons, has taken strict protective measures (to ensure a safe voting environment). I repeat: voting is safe,” as he laid out the measures taken to limit the virus’ spread.

Mr Castaner asked voters to “regularly wash their hands with soap” and “bring their own blue or black indelible ink pens” to the polling station.

Hand sanitiser will be available at all voting booths, he added.

He also said that polling stations would be “thoroughly cleaned before and after each round of voting” with “bleach-based products”.

People wearing a protective face mask will be allowed to vote “on condition that they remain identifiable”.

The coronavirus has infected 1,784 people in France and killed 33, the head of the country’s public health service, Jerome Salomon, said on Tuesday evening.

President Emmanuel Macron, for his part, warned earlier in the day that France “is only at the beginning of this epidemic,” as he urged people to stay calm after reports of panic buying of staple goods in and around Paris.

“We mustn’t give in to panic,” Mr Macron said after a visit to the SAMU ambulance service at the Necker children’s hospital in Paris.

“Today, for France, there is no need to go further than what we have determined … we are taking appropriate measures,” he continued. But “if tomorrow or the day after there was a reason (to take more drastic measures), we would take them.”

The coronavirus outbreak looms large over the mayoral elections, which the Macron government has repeatedly refused to postpone.

Analysts, however, have warned that fear of contamination is likely to be a big turn-off for voters.

The first round of voting is expected to test support for Mr Macron’s tough reform agenda following a second winter marked by mass strikes and protests.

The results will be scrutinised for signs of whether Mr Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM) party has managed to put down roots in the provinces.

But LREM is expected to fare poorly, with its candidates struggling to win over voters in key cities such as Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

Mr Macron is especially keen to turn his fortunes around in the capital, where voters have given him good scores in the past.

But a sex tape scandal forced a last-minute switch in his party’s candidate, and former health minister Agnès Buzyn – LREM’s new pick – is trailing behind the Socialist incumbent, mayor Anne Hidalgo, and conservative Rachida Dati, a Sarkozy protégé.

The flu-like disease, thought to have emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has infected more than 115,800 people and killed over 4,200 worldwide.  

Source: Read Full Article