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Election Commission meets health secretary to review holding ‘safe’ polls

New Delhi: Four days after the Allahabad high court urged the Election Commission and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to consider deferment of the Assembly elections in the wake of the rising cases of Omicron and the Covid-19 third wave across India, the Election Commission on Monday held a meeting with the Union health secretary for an assessment of the situation. Health secretary Rajesh Bhushan briefed the EC about the prevailing Covid-19 and Omicron threat in the country, specially in the five poll-bound states. The discussions also focused on the steps needed to conduct the polls in a safe manner despite the pandemic and the vaccine coverage.

While there is no official word on the meeting, it is learnt that there is a strong possibility of the Assembly polls taking place as scheduled and not being postponed. The CEC and the other election commissioners are expected to visit Uttar Pradesh this week where Assembly elections are due. Another meeting between the EC and health ministry officials is expected to take place in early January 2022.

 

Last week the Allahabad high court had urged the EC to consider the postponement of the elections in view of the third wave. “Jaan hai toh jahan hai,” Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav said while hearing a petition. His comments on Covid-19 and the elections came after he observed that the court was very crowded. “If possible, consider postponing the election, because rallies and meetings can be held later when we all survive,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry also reviewed public health response measures and vaccination status of the five poll bound states — Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab — and advised them to ramp up vaccination of all eligible population through district-wise weekly plan with daily review. These states have been asked to exponentially accelerate testing to curb sudden surge of COVID cases and ensure strict enforcement of COVID appropriate behaviour.

 

While Uttarakhand and Goa have reported vaccination coverage for the first and second doses higher than the national average, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur have COVID19 vaccination coverage numbers below the national average.

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