Curbs on poll rallies till 15 Jan amid Omicron scare: A look at how EC plans to ensure Covid-safe elections

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Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said that all EC officials and employees are to be treated like frontline workers and are eligible for the ‘precaution dose’ of COVID-19 vaccines

The Election Commission on Saturday announced dates for Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab, and Manipur. The poll body also expressed concerns over the surge in COVID-19 cases and banned rallies, roadshows, and corner meetings till 15 January.

Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said the poll authority will review the coronavirus situation on 15 January and take a further call on allowing public rallies.

Meanwhile, the ECI also laid down a slew of COVID-19 guidelines to be followed by the political parties, their respective workers, personnel on election duty.

Chandra, during a press briefing, said that all EC officials and employees are to be treated like frontline workers and are eligible for the “precaution dose” of the Covid-19 vaccines.

Setting down the Covid protocols, the ECI said that in the wake of a Covid surge across the country, all central, state officials on election duty will be required to be doubly vaccinated against coronavirus.

“Parties should provide masks and sanitizers to people attending the rally if they are allowed. Only five people are allowed to take part in door-to-door campaigns,” the EC reiterated.

It also put a ban on the holding of roadshows, padyatras by political parties and mandated that no rallies will be till 15 January.

“Political parties and candidates are advised to conduct campaigns through virtual, digital mode. No nukkad sabhas or victory procession to be held after winning the elections,” the EC further instructed.

Moreover, the polling time has been increased by an hour in each poll-bound states. In addition, political parties have also been instructed to hold no campaign from 8 pm to 8 am in all poll-bound states.

The Election Commission had on Thursday held extensive meetings with the Union Health Secretary and experts on the ways of holding elections with Covid protocol. The poll body is also looking at increasing the number of polling booths in each constituency and reducing the number of voters further from 1,200.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand has become the first poll-bound state to ban political rallies and protests amid the growing number of Covid-19 cases in the state.

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