KUALA LUMPUR: Candidates and campaign workers in Malaysia’s 15th General Election (GE15) are making adjustments to their campaigning activities due to the latest wave of COVID-19 cases driven by the XBB Omicron subvariant.
According to Bernama, the candidates and their campaign workers are taking the necessary precautions to prevent infection, while those who are already infected have been resorting to alternative means to send their message across to the voters.
Last week, Director General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah said that there was an increase of more than 57 per cent of new COVID-19 cases from 16,917 in the last week of October to 26,616 cases in the first week of November.
Two Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidates from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in Perak were among GE15 candidates who had tested positive for COVID-19.
Wong Chai Yi, candidate for the Simpang Pulai state seat, tested positive last Wednesday and said that she had pre-recorded a video clip for her campaign team to screen at a ‘ceramah’. She had also given an online ‘ceramah’ while under quarantine.
After having recovered, Ms Wong said that she still uses social media as part of her campaign efforts.
“Social media is still a platform for me to run my campaign, regardless of whether I am in quarantine or not. I also utilise (the live streaming application) Streamyard at home and project it on a screen at ‘ceramah’ locations, in addition to campaigning live on Facebook,” said Ms Wong as quoted as saying by Bernama.
Tan Kar Hing, who is running for the Gopeng parliamentary seat and completed his quarantine last Friday, said that he conducted a virtual campaign while quarantined at home.
His campaign team also arranged video calls for him to speak with the electorate who were at public places such as food courts and markets.
These candidates were forced to modify their campaigning methods while under quarantine and relied heavily on their campaign teams, the Internet, and social media.
Meanwhile, in locations where voters may not be receptive to online campaigns, candidates have had to adopt precautionary measures against COVID-19 to reduce the risk of transmission while conducting physical campaigns.
Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) secretary-general Hamzah Zainudin, who is defending the Larut parliamentary seat in Perak, said that his team had sent face masks to constituents to help keep COVID-19 under control as online campaigning in villages can be a difficult task.
“Some groups want to conduct online campaigning but the village community may not receive our message. We have to go down to the ground and campaign from house to house,” said the caretaker home minister.
“Definitely, we have to meet as many people as possible to explain what we are going to do. We have released our manifesto. Now, we have to provide our explanation.”
In the Gombak parliamentary constituency in Selangor, Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Megat Zulkarnain Omardin of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) said that he adopted the approach of campaigning for small groups.
“I prefer what we call pocket campaigns. We engage with small groups,” he said.
He had also advised his workers against getting involved in campaigning if they felt unwell.
Candidates also emphasised the importance of following Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in their campaign.
Selangor chief minister Amirudin Shaari said he often reminded his election workers and constituents engaged in campaigning to comply with the SOPs to curb the spread of COVID-19, including wearing face masks.
The PH candidate from PKR also said that he would not campaign face-to-face if unwell as he was well aware of the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
Similarly, Ampang (Selangor) incumbent member of parliament Zuraida Kamaruddin said that if stricken by COVID-19, she would campaign using video clips to deliver her message.
“I have many meetings with my electorate. I go down to the ground to meet the electors during campaigning. We have to be in touch with the electors. Social media is for campaigns at a national level. It is not effective in constituencies,” said the caretaker plantation industries and commodities minister.
INFECTED PERSONS WILL BE ALLOWED TO VOTE
On Monday (Nov 14), the Ministry of Health announced that voters who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be allowed to vote on the condition that they wear a mask, do not use public transport, and travel only to the voting centre and back home.
On Oct 31, caretaker health minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced that mask-wearing is “highly encouraged” in crowded areas amid a rise in COVID-19 cases.
He also said that candidates who test positive for COVID-19 during the campaigning period must be quarantined.
"If you're a candidate who is positive, you have to isolate yourself for a few days but you can still campaign online. That is the responsible thing to do," he said.
Mr Khairy added that political parties and candidates should set a good example by using face masks when in confined spaces, especially when there are senior citizens, or when canvassing for votes door-to-door.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has also urged all GE15 candidates to conduct their own self-test and ensure they wore face masks when meeting the public during the campaigning period.
There are more than 900 candidates contesting in GE15 where some 21 million eligible voters will choose among them to be elected to the 222-seat Lower House of Parliament on Nov 19.
Early voting will take place on Tuesday.