CAMPAIGNS AND COVID-19

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WE hope all political parties will take heed of the warning from the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) on the need to observe the Covid-19 protocols the government has put in place.

With campaigning expected to get into full swing as political players troop to every corner of the country to canvass for votes, there is a likelihood that Covid-19 might be relegated to the back seat.

People will forget that the deadly pandemic is still in our midst and throw all caution to the winds.

But even as the country heads to the August 12 tripartite elections, we are glad that the ECZ is oblivious of the danger posed by Covid-19.

The ECZ has appealed to political parties to avoid holding mass rallies as a precaution against Covid-19.

Mass political rallies or whatever gatherings have been identified in several countries as being super spreaders of Covid-19.

The unprecedented health disaster that has unfolded in India for example has been directly attributed to the recent State elections and religious festivals held recently.

ECZ Chairman, Esau Chulu when announcing the start of the campaign period for this year’s elections noted the dangers posed by uncontrolled huge political rallies.

We are however comforted by the fact that the ECZ has in place a Technical Committee tasked to look at modalities of holding the 2021 general election amid the Covid-19 pandemic and has developed standard operating procedures aimed at guiding stakeholders’ conduct in relation to the Election calendar.

ECZ Chief Elections Officer Patrick Nshindano said the standard operating procedures were shared with political parties last week and that they have welcomed the procedures.

The ECZ has at the same time clarified that it never banned political parties from holding public rallies, but merely advised them to avoid mammoth gatherings as some media outlets have been reporting.

We recall that the ECZ Director for Electoral Operations, Mr Royd Katongo merely advised political parties to avoid holding rallies which attract huge crowds.

Mr Katongo said parties should consider utilising alternative mediums of communication and information sharing such as zoom, public address, television and radio.

And as ECZ Corporate Affairs Manager Patricia Luhanga said yesterday, they were merely discouraging large political gatherings in the face of Covid-19.

We are glad that the ECZ has set a good example by arranging that the verification exercise for presidential aspirants is decentralised – at provincial centres – as opposed to having the supporters brought to Lusaka.

As for the political parties, we hope one of the messages they will not forget to disseminate is for their followers to obverse the health tips on the prevention of Covid-19 – masking up, observing safe social distance, and washing hands with soap and clean water or using hand sanitisers.

They must be aware that the pandemic is still lurking as the outgoing Minister of Health Dr Jonas Chanda warned in Parliament this week that there had been continued community transmission.

Dr Chanda observed that many were not wearing masks and were engaging in super spreader events.

The super spreader events are the impending rallies but we hope political parties will act responsibly and not put the lives of their supporters at risk.

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