Citing significant improvement in the COVID-19 situation, the Election Commission on Saturday further relaxed pandemic-induced restrictions on the assembly poll campaign in five states, allowing padayatras with a limited number of people and increasing the number of hours campaigning can take place in a day.
According to the poll panel, election campaign can now be conducted between 6 am and 10 pm instead of earlier 8 am to 8 pm, following all Covid-appropriate behaviour and protocols of state disaster management authorities.
This will give candidates and parties four more hours to campaign in a day.
Citing the rise in COVID-19 cases, the poll panel had imposed a ban on physical rallies, roadshows and padayatras when it announced the poll schedule for Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur on January 8.
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The commission has been reviewing the pandemic situation periodically and allowing some relaxations.
According to an EC statement, political parties and candidates can campaign with a maximum of 50 per cent of the capacity of the designated open spaces or the limit prescribed by state disaster management authorities, whichever is less.
So far the limit for such outdoor events such as meetings and rallies was 30 per cent of the open space or ground capacity.
On padayatra, the EC said such a gathering cannot consist of more people than the number permitted by state disaster management authorities. Prior permission of district authorities will be needed.
The poll watchdog said it took a periodic review on Saturday of the pandemic situation in the country, especially in the poll-bound states.
”As per information received from the Union Health Secretary, the ground situation of Covid has significantly improved and the cases are fast receding in the country. Even in the reported cases maximum cases are reported from non-poll going states,” it said.
The poll-going states are contributing a very small proportion of the total reported cases in the country. All India figures of Covid cases are fast receding from around 3.47 lakh on January 21 to just about 50,000 as on Saturday, it noted.
In the poll-going states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa, the total number of cases which were more than 32,000 at peak on January 22 this year, has come down to around 3,000 on February 12, the statement said.
”The Commission took note of substantial reduction in Covid cases in the country as well as in the poll-bound states. Based on the facts and circumstances, need of the political parties and candidates for greater participation in elections, the Commission with immediate effect further relaxes the provisions of campaigning,” the statement read.