Colombo: Sri Lanka has set July 31 as the date for advance voting for persons under quarantine, National Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said on Sunday ahead of the August 5 vote. Also Read - Sri Lanka's General Election Sees High Voter Turnout, Rajapaksa Expected to Win

Over 16 million voters are registered to vote on August 5 to elect a 225-member parliament for a 5-year term. Also Read - Sri Lankans to Vote in Parliamentary Election Today | Check Details Here

The election commission has been struggling to make arrangements for a free and fair poll due to the health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Also Read - Coronavirus: Sri Lanka Makes Face Masks Mandatory in Parliament

“The pandemic has forced the election authorities to set an advance polling day for those under quarantine,” Deshapriya said.

“Now those under quarantine would be allowed to vote on July 31,” he said.

Deshapriya said earlier the commission had agreed with political parties that advance voting would be done on two days – July 31 and August 4. But August 4 was not a feasible date due to election preparations.

Deshapriya said the identities of the voters under home quarantine would not be revealed to the media.

This will be the first-ever election in Sri Lanka to have an advance polling date other than the postal voting for persons on election duties.

Sri Lanka has already extended the polling time for the twice-postponed August 5 parliamentary elections by one hour after conducting several mock polls in adherence to the safety guidelines due to the coronavirus pandemic.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on March 2 dissolved the Parliament, six months ahead of schedule, and called for snap polls on April 25.

However, the election commission in mid-April postponed the elections by nearly two months to June 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak in the island nation.

The commission last month informed the apex court that the polls cannot be held on June 20 because of the coronavirus pandemic and the new date was decided following a unanimous decision reached between the members of the commission. Sri Lanka’s coronavirus tally currently stands at 2,764 with 11 deaths.