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Can Election Campaigns Become Covid-19 Super Spreader Events?

elections and mass gatherings

With the local government elections commencing in just under a months time, political parties are on the streets campaigning. Traditionally, political parties would hold mass gatherings. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this usual approach will have to be adjusted.

Wits University's Professor Shabir Madhi says political gatherings would become a concern if mass gatherings take place at indoor facilities. He explains that it would be much safer if the election gathering take place outdoors.

He said, “what we've come to learn about the virus and the way that it transmits is that at least 80% of all infections that do occur are a consequence either directly or indirectly because of mass gatherings that have taken place indoors especially in poorly ventilated spaces”.

Madhi says that health experts are correct to be concerned about issues surrounding political gatherings. He says that political gatherings taking place in tents are still indoor gatherings. The current restrictions limit the number of people allowed to attend an indoor gathering to a maximum of 250 people or less.

He said, “to emphasize I think [the] government here has still got restrictions in place and if we don't abide by those restrictions you can rest assured that we're going to have super spread events”.

Madhi does however acknowledge that the landscape of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa has changed over the past two months. This comes as provinces in South Africa are on a downward trend when it comes to Covid-19 infections.

He said, “I’m actually fairly optimistic that it's unlikely that we're going to experience another resurgence at least for another two to three months so we're in a good space but at the same time we should be still responsible for ensuring that we actually have gatherings that take place under very controlled conditions”.

He has called on political parties to only host campaign rallies in outdoor venues.

“We really need to insist that political parties only have gatherings on outdoor spaces and in fact, the electorate themselves should only attend gatherings that are in outdoor spaces because the electorate are equally culpable when it comes to engaging in risky behaviour” concluded Madhi.

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