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Amid Omicron threat, looming COVID third wave, EC panel to visit UP to review

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 28, Dec 2021, 10:20 am IST | UPDATED: 28, Dec 2021, 10:23 am IST

Amid Omicron threat, looming COVID third wave, EC panel to visit UP to review

New Delhi: A team of the Election Commission of India will be on a three-day visit to Uttar Pradesh from Tuesday (December 28, 2021) to take stock of the poll preparedness ahead of the State Assembly elections in 2022.

As per reports, the chief election commissioner (CEC) and fellow election commissioners will visit Uttar Pradesh to take stock of the poll preparedness in the state from today.

An Allahabad High Court bench of Justice Shekhar Yadav had on Thursday last urged the government and the poll panel to consider postponing the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections for a month or two and banning all political rallies amid the fears of an impending third wave of Covid.

When asked about the observation, CEC Sushil Chandra had said in Dehradun on Friday that the EC would be visiting Uttar Pradesh soon and "an appropriate decision as required by the situation will be taken after we review it."

The commission has already visited Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand as part of its pre-poll stock-taking exercise. 

The Election Commission had on Monday asked the government to expedite the COVID-19 vaccination programme in five poll-bound states in a meeting with the Union health secretary, amid indications that polling may be held in time.

Separately, the Union Health Ministry issued a statement later in the day, saying the Centre has reviewed public health response measures and vaccination status with the poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur.

The ministry has advised ramping up vaccination of all eligible population through a district-wise weekly plan with daily review, according to the statement. During its meeting with Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, the commission noted that the percentage of those administered the first dose of coronavirus vaccine was still less in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur, while it was nearing 100 per cent in Uttarakhand and Goa.

The poll panel also asked the top health official to expedite administering of the second dose to those eligible in these five states, highly-placed sources said. The health ministry statement said testing is to be "exponentially accelerated" to curb the sudden surge of Covid cases. 

"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 COVID-19 vaccination coverage numbers below the national average," it said.

The states, the statement said, have been advised to speedily ramp up COVID-19 vaccination of all eligible population for the first dose and ensure that those who were due for the second dose are administered the dose.

The poll-bound states have been also advised to exponentially increase testing to ensure that infected cases are identified promptly for timely initiation of public health response measures, and to ensure there is no sudden upsurge in numbers due to low testing.

State authorities have been strongly advised to ensure that recommended Covid-appropriate behaviour is strictly followed and adequate measures are undertaken for their effective enforcement, the health ministry said.

In a separate meeting with enforcement agencies and central forces, the Election Commission (EC) asked the top brass of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to check the influence of drugs in elections.

The poll panel pressed upon top officials of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) for maintaining strict vigil on international borders some of the poll-going states share.

Sources aware of the meetings said Health Secretary Bhushan briefed the poll panel for nearly an hour on the Covid situation in the country, especially in poll-bound Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

The issue of the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was also discussed. The commission assessed the situation based on statistics provided by the health ministry, a functionary said. The health secretary also briefed the EC about the Covid protocols and home ministry guidelines issued in the recent past to check the spread of the virus.

The terms of Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur legislative assemblies are ending on different dates in March next year while the Uttar Pradesh assembly's term will end in May. The EC is expected to announce election dates next month. 

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