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EC to Announce Poll Dates for 5 Election-bound States Today as Parties Switch to Digital Rallies Amid Covid Surge

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The Election Commission of India (ECI) is set to announce the schedule and Covid-19 protocols for the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur at 3.30 pm on Saturday.

The Union Health Ministry on Friday said that it presented the status of Covid spread and vaccination coverage in the five poll-bound states with the Election Commission of India. The meeting was held on Thursday.

According to the ministry, the Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in his meeting with ECI presented the overall global and domestic status of spread of Covid, as well as Omicron, in the country. The details were also presented on the status of preparedness of the public health response within the states for control and management of the increasing numbers of Covid cases.

The ministry quoted some media reports, which said: “Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in a meeting with the Election Commission of India (ECI) yesterday suggested that the ‘COVID situation in the country is nothing to be worried about’ and ‘there is no cause of alarm or concern in the view of the very few cases of Omicron in the poll-bound states”. The health ministry clarified and said, “These reports are highly ill- informed, misleading and far from the truth. These reports have a very high tendency to start a mis-information campaign in the midst of a pandemic.”

Earlier, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had briefed the poll panel on December 27. During the interaction, the EC had asked the government to ramp up the vaccination programme in the poll-bound states. The EC could announce the dates for elections in these five states in the next few days.

Several political parties have already announced cancellation of political rallies and are focusing more on digital campaigns in the wake of the unabated surge.

The poll body had on Thursday reviewed the current Covid situation in the five poll-bound states with Bhushan, AIIMS Director, Dr Randeep Guleria, and ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava.

the health experts have briefed the top Election Commission officials to focus majorly on virtual rallies, seeing the unprecedented rise in the Covid cases across the country. The need to ramp up the vaccination process was also emphasised.

Recently, it also held a virtual meeting with political parties and poll officials from Manipur and said that for the first time, the option of postal ballot would be provided during the upcoming Assembly elections to 80+ citizens, persons with disabilities and Covid suspects or affected persons.

“The postal ballot facility is an optional facility and ensures total secrecy of voting. Representatives of candidates will be present during the process and the total procedure will be videographed. In the state, 14,565 persons with disabilities and over 41,867 80+ citizens have been mapped,” the poll panel said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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