Amid an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases, the Election Commission on Thursday banned all road shows, foot marches and large public rallies with more than 500 people for the remaining two rounds of Assembly elections in West Bengal.
The poll panel has also banned cycle and bike rallies. The orders will come into force from 7 pm on Thursday.
“No public meeting beyond the limit of 500 persons at a place subject to availability of adequate space with social distancing, adhering to COVID-19 safety norms, shall be permissible,” the commission said in a statement.
“Permission for roadshow, cycle/bike/vehicle rallies, if granted already, stands withdrawn,” it said, adding that the permission for public meeting, if granted already, stands modified to the extend above.
The commission further noted “with anguish” that many political parties and candidates are still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms during the public gatherings and “this is making difficult for the State/district election machineries to enforce the aforesaid directions fully”.
West Bengal registered the highest single-day spike of 11,948 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, taking the tally beyond the 7-lakh mark. The death toll also went up to 10,766 as 56 more patients succumbed to the disease, the health department said.
The poll body revised its guidelines hours after the Calcutta High Court expressed dissatisfaction with it over the enforcement of COVID-19 health safety norms during the ongoing assembly election process, including campaigning.
The court said issuance of circulars and holding meetings on COVID safety were not enough and sought an affidavit by Friday on steps taken to enforce the norms.
Meanwhile, 43 assembly constituencies went to polls on Thursday in the sixth phase of the elections. The state will witness two more phases of polling on April 26 and 29. Votes will be counted on May 2.