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24 Mar, 2020 08:43

‘Why did we vote?’ French election officials sick a week after controversial ballot held amid Covid-19

‘Why did we vote?’ French election officials sick a week after controversial ballot held amid Covid-19

Holding a nationwide election during an epidemic may not seem like the wisest move, but France went along with it. Fast forward a week, and some people who made the voting possible report they have contracted the coronavirus.

The first round of municipal elections in France took place on March 15, even as the government was shutting down non-essential public venues and calling on people to stay at home – unless, of course, they had to cast their votes. The second round was supposed to happen a week later but was postponed until late June, rendering the practical value of the initial vote questionable at best.

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And it seems that, despite all the government-mandated precautions, the poll was not as safe as it should have been, at least for some of its organizers. Paul Hatte, who presided over the polling station in Paris’ 17th district, has developed Covid-19 symptoms and on Thursday had no doubt about his diagnosis.

“Why did we have to vote?” he asked on Twitter. “Was it responsible to rush forward [given] the virus?”

Of course, in many cases there is no way of knowing where and when exactly the transmission actually happened. Romaric Moyon, who was in charge of a polling station in Melun, is concerned that he may have posed a threat to fellow organizers and hundreds of voters on election day.

“Maybe I was already a carrier on Sunday and I potentially transmitted the virus,” he told the newspaper CNews. His symptoms developed on Wednesday, so with an average incubation period of five days his fears are not baseless.

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An election clerk was diagnosed with Covid-19 in the town of Billom in central France. There are three cases in Montmagny in the north, and another in Franconville, northwest of Paris.

“In hindsight, the municipal elections should have been cancelled,” Mayor of Billom Jean-Michel Charlat acknowledged in an interview. Charlat has since developed a fever and is now self-quarantined at home.

If this sentiment is shared by the government in Paris, it has apparently chosen not to share it with the French public.

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