People wearing masks walk in the Central area of Hong Kong, July 27, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
Given the latest flare-up in the number of novel coronavirus infections in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, there have been calls for the Legislative Council election, which was slated for Sept 6, to be postponed.
Former LegCo president Jasper Tsang said it would be difficult to implement prevention and control measures and maintain social distancing during the election, and he, along with others, has suggested the election be deferred.
Given the recent spate of infections, the SAR government should give serious consideration to that suggestion.
Hong Kong has experienced an unabated rise in the number of new infections over the past couple of weeks, with another 106 cases reported on Tuesday, the seventh consecutive day of a three-digit spike in infections.
With the majority of the new wave of infections locally transmitted, the government is implementing strict new measures in a bid to cut the transmission chains, including a ban on restaurant dining and restricting gatherings to two people.
Since the election would involve election staff and voters gathering in voting stations, it would breach that prevention and control restriction, and in all likelihood lead to a further rise in infections.
Meanwhile, the tightened social distancing rules, implemented recently in response to the new wave of infections, would make it difficult — if not impossible — for candidates to conduct campaign activities. The 14-day compulsory quarantine requirement would also prevent many voters from casting their votes. It is estimated that more than 1 million registered voters are out of Hong Kong now, with hundreds of thousands of them staying on the Chinese mainland.
Also, many voters, particularly the elderly, are very likely to shun the voting stations for fear of contracting the virus. So it makes sense to postpone the election at this time.
Nearly 70 countries and regions around the world including Australia, Canada and Italy have delayed their respective national or regional elections over the past several months due to the pandemic.
Postponing the LegCo election would allow the SAR government and Hong Kong society to focus on fighting the virus and prime-pumping the economy, which is essential for stopping the current wave of business closures from further snowballing, and halting the rising unemployment rate, now at 6.2 percent — the highest level in more than 15 years.
The risks of a further spike in the number of infections are too high to be ignored.
Controlling the spread of the virus and keeping people safe are the priorities at the moment. To do that, the government should bite the bullet and postpone the election.