Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan to brief ECI on COVID-19 situation on December 27

The poll panel is expected to announce election dates next month.

As the Election Commission of India (ECI) prepares for Assembly polls in five States early next year, its top brass is slated to interact with Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on December 27.

The commission is likely to seek updates from Mr. Bhushan on the COVID-19 situation and the emergence of Omicron, the new coronavirus variant, sources said on December 26.

The terms of Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur legislative assemblies are ending on different dates in March next year while the assembly’s term in Uttar Pradesh will end in May. The poll panel is expected to announce election dates next month.

The commission may also seek suggestions from Mr. Bhushan on improving its COVID-19 protocol for poll campaigning, polling days and the dates of counting.

On December 28, the chief election commissioner (CEC) and fellow election commissioners are scheduled to visit Uttar Pradesh to take stock of the poll preparedness in the State.

An Allahabad High Court bench of Justice Shekhar Yadav had on Thursday urged the government and the poll panel to consider postponing the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections for a month or two and banning all political rallies amid fears of an impending third wave of COVID-19. When asked about the observation, CEC Sushil Chandra had said in Dehradun on Friday that the EC will be visiting Uttar Pradesh next week and “an appropriate decision as required by the situation will be taken after we review it”. The commission has already visited Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand as part of its pre-poll stock-taking exercise.

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