The advice tells would-be councillors and their political supporters not to shake hands with voters
Public health experts in Hertfordshire have drawn up advice for doorstep canvassing in the run-up to local elections, as part of an ongoing drive to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
The advice tells would-be councillors and their political supporters not to shake hands with voters, not to use objects handed to them on the doorstep, like pens, and not to stand too close.
And it says that if they’re just trying to post a leaflet, they should try not to touch door handles or letter boxes either.
“The basis principle for canvassing is to avoid spreading the virus from one person to another during canvassing activities,” says the advice.
The advice is designed to stop the transfer of the virus through physical contact or droplet spread, from coughs or surfaces which may have the virus on them.
And, says the advice, it’s the same principles that people should already be using to prevent the spread of flu.
One of the nine pointers in the document states: “It is wise to cease handshaking with residents and voters as a precaution. Other non physical greetings or simple hellos are fine.”
And another says: “The current advice is you should stay two metres from people.
“This is highly impractical but it is important you limit close social contact which allows droplets of virus to spread.”
If residents are visibly unwell it suggests canvassers don’t linger on the doorstep.
It says: “If you visit someone with cold or flu symptoms it is wise to say you’ll come back when they are feeling better (It is highly unlikely they will have coronavirus but it is good practice to do to avoid spread of cold and flu).”
Later in the election cycle, when it comes to hustings the advice says that people with cold and flu symptoms should be advised not to attend.
And it is “strongly advised” to provide hand sanitizer on entry.
The advice stresses that it is important for canvassers to wash their hands with soap and water whenever possible – and not to eat, drink or touch their face unless they have just done so.
It says ‘good quality hand sanitizer’ between hand washing is a ‘second best’ that should also be considered.
The advice also suggests that ‘should’ local elections continue, further advice would be issued for polling stations.
“At the time of writing, government has not yet issued national guidance on local election canvassing, nor has it announced any plans as to whether local elections 2020 will continue or be suspended,” it states.
“Should the elections continue specific guidance will be issued for polling stations.”
Elections for councillors on a number of district and borough councils in the county are scheduled for May 7. However the next county council elections are not due until next year (2021).
The advice has already been issued to election officers at all of Hertfordshire’s ‘local’ councils – and will be available on the county council’s website.