Stigma blamed as COVID-19 patients keep off voting

They backed out upon being informed that they had to wear PPEs

Blame it on the stigma attached to the pandemic, but not a single COVID infected person came forward to cast their vote for the five Assembly constituencies here on Tuesday, for the fear of being seen in a PPE. COVID infected persons in Dharmapuri also did not cast their right to vote for the fear of stigma of being seen in a PPE.

While the disabled, and the very aged struggled their way to the polling stations to exercise their franchise, COVID patients quarantined in their homes failed to turn up at the polling stations, even as they had expressed their interest to vote. Many patients had expressed their desire to vote and had reached out to the 108 ambulance service to be picked up at the designated hour. However, they backed out at the 11th hour upon being informed that they had to wear their PPEs, says Raman Kani, District Manager, 108 GMR ambulance services.

If the home quarantined were recovering from COVID infection, their desire to vote in an election that came once in five years was trumped by perceived shame and stigma attached to the PPE and the fear of being seen in one in their neighbourhood.

For instance, in Harur, there were initially 11 COVID patients in home quarantine, who had expressed interest to vote. Later it scaled down to one person, who was supposed to be picked up at 5.30 p.m to be taken to a nearby booth at the allocated time of 6 p.m to 7 p.m for COVID infected voters. However, the patient refused at the last minute.

All polling stations were prepared to accommodate to polling of COVID patients between 6 p.m and 7 p.m and the polling staff were also clad in PPEs at the appointed hour.

“Infact, our ambulances were equipped with PPEs and our drivers were ready to pick up those interested from their homes at the appointed time. But then, they refused once they were told that they would have to wear the PPEs, which we were ready to provide,” said Mr. Raman Kani.

“For instance in Krishnagiri, we were told unofficially that there may be some 200 people interested. Then, 11 persons contacted from Krishnagiri and Hosur to be taken to the polling station. But only three persons in Hosur finally cast their votes, while seven others in Krishnagiri and Kaveripattinam refused our services,” says Mr.Kani.

The response has been different in a semi-urban Hosur, while in the rest of the rural pockets of Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri, COVID infected would rather forfeit their right to vote than to wear a PPE.

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