OVIEDO, Spain 

Voting began Sunday morning in Basque and Galicia regional elections, which have been complicated by growing COVID-19 outbreaks.

The elections, Spain’s first since the pandemic began, were originally scheduled for April.

Spain’s Supreme Court upheld the decisions made by the local governments to ban everyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days from voting, as well as those awaiting test results.

This will affect at least 400 people who have contracted the virus in the two autonomous Spanish regions. Criminal charges could await anyone who breaks this rule.

In Galicia, the majority of COVID-19 cases – 186 – correspond to an outbreak in the area of A Marina. Parts of it still remain cordoned off from the rest of the country, but the Supreme Court said the vote in those areas must continue.

There is also an ongoing outbreak in the town of Ordizia in the Basque Country, where 70 people have so far tested positive.

Analysts suggest voter turnout may be low, especially in the two epicenters.

“It’s safe to vote,” Iñigo Urkullu, the current Basque president, said after casting his ballot.

Strict hygiene measures are in place in all voting stations to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. All voters must wear masks and maintain social distance, while authorities will frequently disinfect surfaces.

Polls suggest that both incumbent regional presidents will be re-elected, although a high number of abstentions could threaten their comfortable leads.

The latest Ministry of Health data showed new COVID-19 cases in Spain jumped to the highest level since late May when on Friday, 852 new infections were reported. That brings the total case number to nearly 254,000, including 28,403 virus-linked deaths.

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