The Election Commission of India (EC) on Wednesday made it mandatory for all candidates and their agents to have either negative COVID-19 test results or both doses of a vaccine before entering the counting halls on May 2, when votes in the five ongoing Assembly polls are tabulated.
The EC issued instructions for counting of votes in the West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry elections at a time the country is going through an unprecedented surge of COVID-19. On Tuesday, the EC had banned all victory processions on May 2, and restricted the number of people accompanying winning candidates to collect their certificate of election from the Returning Officer to two.
“In view of second wave of pandemic and in order to ensure a completely Covid safe arrangements during counting the Commission has been regularly consulting the Chief Secretaries and the Chief Electoral Officers of all five poll going States/ UT and has taken their views and safety measures/ protocol to be followed during the pandemic,” an EC statement said.
The EC ordered the District Election Officers (DEO) to be the Nodal Officers for counting centres in order to make sure COVID-19 related rules are followed.
“No candidates/agents will be allowed inside the counting hall without undergoing RT-PCR/RAT test or without having two doses of vaccination against Covid-19 and will have to produce negative RT-PCR report or RAT report or vaccination reports within 48 hours of start of counting,” the EC instructions read.
It added that the DEO should make arrangements for the tests before counting day.
“No public gathering outside the counting venue shall be allowed during the process of counting,” the EC said.
It added that counting halls should be large enough to maintain physical distancing and have adequate ventilation. The counting centres as well as sealed outer boxes of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) should be sanitised, it said. If required, postal ballots could be counted in separate halls, it said.