The Election Commission has 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 citing significant improvement in the COVID-19 situation.
According to the poll panel, election campaigns 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.
On January 8, 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 percent 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 percent 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-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.