New Delhi [India], April 17 (ANI): As West Bengal is gearing up for the fifth phase of the ongoing assembly polls on Saturday, the entire nation is witnessing a spike in the COVID-19 cases.
West Bengal reported 6,910 new COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths just ahead of the polling in the fifth phase.
According to the state health bulletin, the total count of cases has reached 6,43,795. The number of active cases in the state stands at 41,047.
With 26 more deaths, the toll in West Bengal has reached 10,506.
The political leaders of all political parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party, TMC openly flouted all COVID-19 norms put in place by the Health Ministry while campaigning for the first five phases of the elections. The norms of social distancing were tossed during the massive rallies and roadshows held by the political parties.
However, with the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, the Election Commission (EC) has decided to curtail the timing of the campaign for the remaining phases of the election and extended the silence period to 72 hours for each of the phases.
In its order, the EC said that no rallies, public meetings, street plays, nukkad sabhas, shall be allowed on any day during the days of the campaign between 7 pm and 10 am.
The order has come into effect from 7 pm on Friday.
"Silence period for rallies, public meetings, street plays, nukkad sabha, bike rallies or any gathering for campaigning purposes shall be extended to 72 hours before the end of the poll for Phase 6, Phase 7 and Phase 8 in the State of West Bengal," it said.
The Commission also took a serious view against repeated violations by star campaigners/political leaders/candidates who are supposed to be torch bearers for the campaign against COVID-19, grossly violating COVID-19 protocols, thereby exposing themselves as well as the public to the danger of infection.
The Commission in its order noted several instances of election meetings and campaigns "wherein norms of social distancing, wearing of masks have been flouted in blatant disregard of the Commission's aforesaid guidelines".
A total of 45 constituencies across six districts - Jalpaiguri, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Nadia, North 24 Parganas and Purba Bardhaman - are going to the polls in the fifth phase. (ANI)