Lucknow: As the rising number of Covid cases have once again posed panic in the country, the Election Commission of India wrote to the chief secretaries of five poll-bound states including Uttar Pradesh, asking them to “accelerate” the pace of Covid-19 vaccination. The poll panel also expressed concerns over the low percentage of first dose coverage in Manipur.
The move comes after the Commission had at a press conference in Lucknow last week emphasised on the need to speed up vaccination in poll-bound states, EC officials said. At the press meet, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said that EC had asked states to take steps to step up vaccination coverage.
Notably, Elections are scheduled to be held in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur this year.
Earlier, a judge of the Allahabad High Court had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “take strong steps” and consider “stopping and postponing” rallies, meetings and elections in view of the rising cases and a possible third wave.
However, the Election Commission later said that all parties in Uttar Pradesh want the Assembly elections to be held as per schedule. “All the political parties, without any difference of opinion, said that elections should be conducted on time while following Covid protocol,” the EC said.
When asked whether the EC would consider postponing the elections, Chandra had said, “EC will execute the responsibility assigned to it as per the Constitution. While executing that responsibility, whatever will be required to consider—either rising Covid numbers or managing the increasing rallies—elections will be announced after taking that into consideration.”
He added, “I have been told that 86 per cent of people in the state [Uttar Pradesh] have got the first dose and 49 per cent the second dose of Covid vaccine. We have been assured that in 15-20 days, all eligible people will get their first dose. We have asked for increasing vaccination.”
Last week, the Election Commission had also held a meeting with Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan to review the Covid-19 situation ahead of Assembly polls in five states.
The Health Ministry had sent multidisciplinary teams to Uttar Pradesh and Punjab following reports that their vaccination coverage was below the national average.
The Health Secretary had on December 23 directed the poll-bound states to “exponentially ramp up vaccination”, especially in the “low coverage districts”, to protect the vulnerable population.
Bhushan, during the review meeting with all states, had also raised a red flag stating that pockets with low vaccination coverage may be more vulnerable to the new Omicron variant, and that district administrations have to pay special attention to ramp up vaccination in these pockets.