Having worked as a pharmacist in the Health department for several years, Ghulam Rasool Sheikh had an unusual task ahead of him on Saturday, the first phase of District Development Councils (DDC) polls.
Sheikh had reached a polling station in Wutrad village in Budgam’s Khansahib constituency well before 7 am with a thermal screening device.
Despite the bone-chilling cold, Sheikh waited for voters outside the pooling booth at a government school in Wutrad and as soon the voter footfall picked up, he started his job of thermal screening of people.
“There is no time even for a tea break. We are not letting any voter enter the polling station without checking their body temperature with the digital thermometer,” Sheikh said.
He said the Health department officials even tried to create awareness among the people to maintain social distancing while standing in the queue for voting.
Sheikh was not the only Health department official who kept waiting for the voters at the main entrance of a polling station.
At a polling station located in a government school at Kachwari in Khansahib constituency, a Health department official could be seen wearing a body protective gear and a face-mask while conducting thermal screening of the voters.
At almost all polling stations, banners with awareness messages regarding preventive measures against COVID19 had been put up.
Locals at Wutrad village said keeping COVID19 measures at the polling stations was a welcome step. “Thermal screening ensures that no sick person enters the polling station which reduces the risk of COVID19 spread. I went to vote but before that my body temperature was checked,” said Zahoor Ahmad, a first-time voter.
Apart from the measures taken at the polling station, the Health department also tried to ensure that COVID19 positive persons undergoing home quarantine are able to vote through postal ballot, an official said.
The Health department official said a survey prior to voting conducted showed that of the 41 total active COVID19 positive patients in Khansahib, 24 had shown willingness to vote through postal ballot while 12 COVID19 positive patients had expressed unwillingness to cast their vote. Speaking to Greater Kashmir, Chief Medical Officer, Budgam, Dr Tajamul Hussain Khan said the block-level monitoring control rooms were set-up to monitor that COVID19 protocols were in place.
Khan said a main control room was also established at the district headquarters in Budgam.
“On the day of polls, we will be having round-the-clock control room to monitor COVID19 related protocols. We are ensuring that officials of the department are present at all polling stations,” Khan said.