File image of security personnel guarding the electronic voting machines
The Election Commission on April 28 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 negative test report, however, would not be required by those candidates and polling agents who have received both doses of the vaccine, the EC said.
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The candidates would also be required to submit a list of their polling agents three days before the counting of votes, the order added.
All forms of public gathering outside the counting centres has also been barred by the polling body. The measure is aimed at preventing the violation of social distancing norms.
The counting centres and electronic voting machine boxes would be disinfected before the EC officials begin the counting on May 2.
"Social distancing shall be maintained inside counting Hall, seating
arrangement of counting personnel/agents etc should be made as
per extant COVID-19 guidelines," the order stated.
"The counting agents sitting arrangement shall
be made in such a way that between 2 counting agents 1 agent shall
be in PPE," it added.
The counting of votes would be held in the four states of West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, along with the union territory of Puducherry. The polling has concluded in all states except Bengal, where the final phase of elections would be held on April 29.
The issuance of counting day protocol by the Election Commission comes a couple of days after it drew a sharp rebuke from the Madras High Court. The polling body was questioned over failing to prevent large-scale poll rallies and public meetings despite the onset of pandemic.
The EC must be “singularly” held responsible for the second wave of the pandemic in the country, the HC said on April 26.