COVID-19 patients won’t be allowed to vote in Belize’s general election, says PM

Prime Minister Dean Barrow says people who have been in self-isolation or have tested positive for coronavirus ahead of Belize’s November 11 general election will not be allowed to vote.

Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow

“It can’t be permitted. If you are COVID positive, you are supposed to be in quarantine either at a government facility or at your own home. There’s no way we can get around that restriction, which is a legal one, a mandatory one,” Barrow said.

“And If we were to try to change the law to make arrangements to accommodate COVID positive persons who wish to vote, not only would it be I think, an extremely difficult logistical exercise, I suspect that the fears of those that are not positive, but who already have reservations or perhaps in two minds of whether they will exercise their franchise, those fears would become even more pronounced,” he added.

Representation of the People’s Act

The Elections and Boundaries Department had initially indicated that all persons who show up at the respective polling stations will be allowed to cast their ballot.

The main opposition People’s United Party (PUP) says it will be taking a position on that decision.

Section Five of Chapter Nine of the Representation of the People’s Act lists the qualifications that allow persons to vote in the elections. These include that the person must be a Belizean, a Commonwealth citizen residing in Belize for 12 months or more, must be 18-years and over. The Act also lists who is disqualified but is silent about any infectious diseases.

Belize is the latest Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to be holding a general election during the COVID-19 pandemic, following St. Kitts-Nevis, Suriname, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. St. Vincent and the Grenadines will hold its general election on November 5.

Barrow, who is stepping down from active politics, told reporters that while it is extremely regrettable “that if you are COVID positive, in effect you are not able to exercise your franchise, we don’t see that it can be otherwise,” he said.