The Bioethics Committee at the Polish Academy of Sciences comprises 34 experts including doctors, biologists, lawyers and humanist scholars.
The document -- entitled “Position of the Bioethics Committee at the Polish Academy of Sciences regarding holding election for the President of the Republic of Poland during COVID-19 epidemics” -- was written out of “concern for well-being and life of Polish citizens (residing both in Poland and abroad) and other people who may interact with them, as well as in result of justifiable doubts about feasibility of affirming the citizens’ right to vote during the epidemic”.
The scientists claim that given the current developments it is impossible to hold the election, so they request the “constitutional state authorities of the Republic of Poland to take immediate legal measures necessary to postpone the election”.
They also fear that -- according to doctors and public health experts -- the election “will result in a significant increase in number of SARS-CoV-2 infections and thus also a significant increase in the number of infections and fatalities among members of electoral committees, but also among voters and their relatives”.
The statement reads then: “These concerns are well justified given the most current medical knowledge about the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, but also drawn from experience of other countries in fighting the COVID-19 epidemic; particularly tragic were consequences of the decision made by French authorities to hold the first round of municipal elections during the epidemic.”
The committee points out that even though it might be impossible to predict what the status of the epidemic in Poland will look like on May 10, the election go beyond the mere act of casting a ballot but also mean extensive preparation for a “massive organizational and logistic undertaking”.
The statement reads: “Ongoing COVID-19 epidemic is not the right time to have an election campaign nor to organise an election. During an epidemic, it is of utmost importance that all political forces are concentrated on preventing and fighting the disease and its negative impact on the society and economy instead of promoting partisan interest.”
They point out the lack of consequence on the side of government authorities, as the health secretary has introduced multiple restrictions on people movement and called them to to stay at home, planning on holding the election “contradicts the logic of adopted measures”.
“The estimates are that at least 140-150 thousand people are needed to man the regional electoral committees during the upcoming elections. For all these people the election day and the weeks preceding it will be a time of increased mobility and social interaction because of required obligatory trainings and personal participation.
“There is no doubt that with social preparations on such a massive scale and the simultaneous lack of generally available basic personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, disinfectants), it will be a highly difficult if not an impossible task to effectively reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmissions.”
The document ends with a statement: “Given the current circumstances, a decision to hold elections on May 10 would be morally irresponsible and legally inacceptable”
“Both preparations needed for the elections and holding them on that initial date would be a violation of constitutionally protected human and civil rights: the right to life and to health, and to take part in elections. The consequences will be disastrous for the health and well-being of a great many Polish citizens, including the possibility of death.”
26 members of the Committee voted on adopting the position with 25 voting in favour of it and one person against.
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