Election Commission issues Broad Guidelines for Covid-Safety during counting of votes on May 2

Kolkata : The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Wednesday issued the COVID-19 protocol for May 2, when the counting of votes would be held for the recently contested assembly elections.

The candidates and their respective polling agents would be allowed entry inside the counting centres only if they carry COVID-19 negative test report.

Both form of tests – RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests – would be valid for entry in the counting centres, as per the EC order. The test should be conducted within 48 hours before the day of counting.

The Commission had issued Broad Guidelines for conduct of General Election/ Bye- Election during Covid-19 after on 21st August, 2020 incorporating views/suggestion of National/State Political parties. The Commission also considered the views and suggestion given by the Chief Secretaries before finalizing the broad Covid-19 guidelines.

After issuing the above guidelines, the Commission conducted General Elections to the Legislative Assembly of Bihar and other By-Elections to various State during Covid-19 period by strictly following these Guidelines in 2020.

Even though the spread of pandemic had reduced in the month of February 2021 Commission continued with same strict regime of Covid safety guidelines and announced the election of 5 poll going States/UT’s. The Commission has already conducted polls of ongoing General Elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry along with Bye-Election to Various States and has also conducted 7 Phases of Election in West Bengal and 8th Phase of West Bengal Election is due on 29th April, 2021.

Counting of votes for all these elections is due on 02.05.2021.

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 5 poll going States/UT and has taken their views and safety Measures/protocol to be followed during the pandemic.

After considering the views and inputs from Chief Secretaries, Health Secretaries and the Chief Electoral Officers of all poll going States/UT, the Commission has directed all the poll going states/UT to adhere the following instructions during the counting process of the General Elections/Bye-Elections-

i. DEO shall be the Nodal Officer at each Counting Centre to ensure adherence to the following the COVID-19 related norms at Counting Centres, with assistance of Nodal Health Officer.

ii. Compliance Certificate in respect of Counting Centre that all arrangement has been made as per extant COVID guidelines shall be obtained from the concerned Health Authorities.

iii. No candidates/agents will be allowed inside the counting hall without undergoing RT-PCR/RAT test or without having 2 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 DEO shall make arrangement of RT-PCR/RAT Test to Candidates/Counting agents before the day of Counting. List of counting agents shall be made available by the contesting candidates to the RO concerned by 1700 hours on the day three days prior to the date fixed for counting of votes. (para 15.12.2 of RO handbook).