EC extends ban on physical rallies till February 11

The Election Commission on Monday further extended the ban on physical rallies and roadshows to February 11 for the upcoming Assembly elections in five States but gave relaxation in the number of people allowed at meetings and campaigning.
The EC has granted certain relaxation to parties, giving the nod to physical public meetings in designated open spaces with a maximum of 1,000 people (instead of 500) or 50% of the capacity of the ground or the prescribed limit set by SDMA, whichever number is the least, from February 1.
“The Commission has also enhanced the limit for door to door campaigns. Instead of 10 persons, now 20 persons, excluding security personnel, will be allowed for door to door campaigns. Other instructions on door to door campaigns will continue.
The Commission has now granted relaxation for the political parties to the extent that indoor meetings of a maximum of 500 persons (instead of existing 300 persons) or 50% of the capacity of the hall or the prescribed limit set by SDMA is allowed,” the EC said in a statement on Monday.
The EC on Monday held a slew of virtual meetings with the Health Ministry, Chief Secretaries, Health Secretaries and Chief Electoral Officers of Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra, along with Election Commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey accompanied by the Secretary General and the Deputy Election Commissioners concerned, also held a separate review of the present status and projected trends of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In depth discussions were also held with respect to current vaccination status of 1st, 2nd dose for eligible persons in the respective States as also arrangements for polling personnel. All the State Chief Secretaries informed the Commission about reports of Covid-19 infection either plateauing out or tapering as on date. They also said that the positivity rate is showing a decline with the number of hospitalisation cases also registering a declining trend,” the EC said.
“The State officers however said that Covid protocol precautions need to be continued to be observed so that no undue spurt takes place due to intense public contact because of heightened political activity,” it added.
The EC said all the existing restrictions as announced on January 8 will continue to remain in effect.
The EC  had on January 8 announced the schedule for polls in the five States. The counting of votes will take place on  March 10.
CEC Sushil Chandra had announced a ban on physical rallies and roadshows amid a surge in Covid-19 cases and the spread of the Omicron variant.
The Commission had earlier also directed that all Central/State Government officials deployed for election duty shall be doubly vaccinated. It had also stated that all election officials and employees will be treated as frontline workers and all eligible officials shall be given a precautionary booster dose accordingly.
Indian Express