EC makes negative Covid report mandatory for entering counting centres on May 2

The Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday made it mandatory for all contesting candidates and their polling agents to either test negative for COVID-19 or show proof of having received both doses of vaccines to enter the counting centres on May 2.

This instruction is part of the Commission’s detailed COVID19 protocol released Wednesday for the counting day, when the results of the Assembly elections held in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry will be declared.

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The candidates will have to produce a COVID negative report within 48 hours (either on April 30 or by May 1) before the counting day to access the counting centres. The EC has tasked all District Election Officers to arrange for either RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen Test for the candidates and their counting agents before the day of counting.

If the candidate or one of her agents is infected, then a replacement will have to be appointed. “No one having any symptom of COVID19-like fever, cold etc. shall be allowed to enter the counting hall,” the EC’s instruction states.

Other steps prescribed for safe counting of votes on May 2 include:

Masks, hand sanitisers, face shields, and gloves should be provided to all security and counting officers.

Counting hall to be sufficiently big to ensure social distancing and should be well ventilated.

Counting centres and containers carrying EVMs and VVPAT machines to be disinfected before counting begins.

Candidates and their counting agents to be provided with PPE kits. Seating inside the hall should be arranged in a way that one agent sitting between two counting agents should be in PPE.

Additional Returning Officers can be appointed to supervise the counting of postal ballots. If needed postal ballots can be counted in a separate hall.

DEOs have to obtain a COVID compliance certificate regarding precautions taken in each counting centre from the concerned health authorities.

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