The Election Commission (EC) on Sunday relaxed rules regarding public meetings for the ongoing five State Assembly polls, allowing attendance of up to 50% of the capacity of an indoor venue an 30% of an open ground.
The EC said the decision was taken after a meeting with the Union Health Secretary on Saturday and inputs from Chief Secretaries of the poll-bound States. The Chief Secretaries had told the EC that there had been a “significant improvement” in the COVID-19 situation and a “considerable decrease” in positive cases and hospitalisation.
The EC said most of the Chief Secretaries and the special observers appointed for the polls had recommended easing restrictions. It said the Health Secretary informed the commission that the number of cases were on the decline in the country and the maximum cases being reported were from non-poll-going states.
“The poll-going States are contributing a very small proportion of the total reported cases in the country. Union Health Secretary briefed the commission that the peak of COVID had been reached on January 21/22 after that all-India figures of COVID cases are fast receding from around 2.93 lakh to 1.72 lakh,” the EC said.
In the poll-going States — Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand — the total number of cases had gone down from the peak of 32,000 on January 22 to around 7,000 on Saturday, the EC said. The Health Secretary also informed the commission that vaccination coverage was satisfactory.
“Commission noticed that relaxation decisions are being taken in various States like opening of schools/colleges and other institutions in the light of decreasing trends of COVID,” the EC said.
While the eased restrictions on public meetings from the earlier cap of 1,000 people, the ban on road-shows and processions would continue. The limit of 20 people for door-to-door campaigning would also continue. In case the State disaster management authority has set lower limits for attendance at public meetings, the SDMA’s guidelines would prevail, the EC said. All other rules set when the elections were announced on January 8 would continue, it said.