The Election Commission on Saturday extended the ban on physical rallies and roadshows in the five poll-bound states till January 22 amid the rise in coronavirus cases.

The poll panel, however, allowed political parties to hold indoor meetings of up to 300 people or 50% of the venue’s capacity or the limit set by the state disaster management authority.

While announcing the poll schedule for Goa, Punjab, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh on January 8, the Election Commission had banned all physical rallies, roadshows, processions and vehicle rallies till January 15.

On Saturday, the poll panel held a series of meetings with the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry, chief electoral officers, chief secretaries and health secretaries of the five states.

“Political parties shall ensure the compliance of Covid appropriate behaviour and guidelines and Model Code of Conduct at all occasions during the activities connected with elections,” the Election Commission said in a statement later.

Assembly polls in the five states will be held in seven phases from February 10 till March 7 despite a 30-fold rise in coronavirus cases in the past month.

On Saturday, the health ministry reported 2,68,833 cases of the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, taking India’s total tally to 3.67 since the pandemic broke out in early 2020. Deaths from the infection rose by 402, with total now at 4,85,752, the ministry said.

Even as the Omicron wave began last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav were still busy campaigning, appearing unmasked in rallies attended by thousands of people.

Last year, Assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry were held amid the devastating second wave of the coronavirus.





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