Sri Lanka holds coronavirus-proof test vote ahead of election

(BBC) – Authorities in Sri Lanka have held mock elections as part of a test of new anti-coronavirus voting measures.

Voters wore face masks, stood 1m (3ft) apart in queues and brought their own pens and pencils to mark ballot papers.

Officials were protected by plastic screens or face shields, and sprayed disinfectants on voters.

Sri Lanka postponed parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for April, because of the virus. The vote is due to be held on 5 August.

Sunday’s trial run was held in four of the country’s 22 electoral districts. It was designed to get voters used to the new system and see if extra voting time was needed.

“We were very pleased to see that all those who volunteered to take part in this exercise today wore face masks,” election commission chairman Mahinda Deshapriya told reporters.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who won last November’s presidential election by a landslide, is hoping to secure a two-thirds parliamentary majority for his party, which would give him sweeping powers.

The Sri Lankan government imposed strict restrictions in March in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The curbs included a 24-hour nationwide curfew and a ban on any gathering.

The country has eased the lockdown in recent weeks, although a night-time curfew remains in place.

According to the Worldometer website, almost 1,900 Covid-19 cases have been recorded in Sri Lanka since January, and 11 people have died with the virus.