India to go ahead with elections despite Covid-19 wave

Polling dates for five states have been announced

Reuters file photo
Reuters file photo

By Reuters

Published: Sun 9 Jan 2022, 12:03 AM

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and a key battleground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition groups, will hold elections in seven phases starting from February 10, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said on Saturday.

Voting will be completed on March 7, with results expected on March 10, the commission said. It has announced polling dates for five states at a time when the country is facing a soaring number of coronavirus infections.

Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa will hold elections on February 14, the commission said. Manipur will have elections in two phases on February 27 and March 3. Chandra said the political parties were barred from holding election rallies and roadshows until January 15 in view of the rising cases.

India on Saturday reported 141,986 new Covid-19 cases, the highest daily number since the end of May, and 285 new deaths. Recorded case numbers have reached 35 million since the beginning of the pandemic.

Last year, Modi’s government had faced severe criticism for his handling of the pandemic during a second wave that overran healthcare systems across the country.

Government officials have privately said daily cases in the country’s third wave of infections could surpass the record of more than 414,000 hit last May, due to the fast spread of the Omicron variant.

India has embarked on a massive vaccination drive for those aged 15 and above. However, millions are vulnerable to new infections, particularly in the vast hinterlands of states such as Uttar Pradesh where healthcare is inadequate.

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