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Covid-19 threat to polls as top leaders test positive – bihar election

Four senior political leaders in Bihar contracted the coronavirus infection on the campaign trail for the upcoming assembly polls, underlining the threat of the virus in packed rallies and road shows in what is India’s first major election after the pandemic.

Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, former Union ministers Shahnawaz Hussain and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and senior Congress leader and four-time Muzaffarpur MLA Vijendra Chaudhary announced they tested positive for Covid-19.

“Tested positive for corona. All parameters perfectly normal. Started with mild temp. No temp for last 2 days. Admitted to AIIMS Patna for better monitoring. CT scan of lungs normal. Will be back soon for campaigning,” tweeted Sushil Modi.

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Hussain, who is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) list of star campaigners, said he was admitted to AIIMS for treatment.

“I came in contact with corona-positive patients. Their reports have come positive. Hence, I have also decided to undergo test. It has come positive,” tweeted Hussain.

Rudy confirmed to HT that he had tested positive for the disease. Chaudhary, who is the Congress candidate for Muzaffarpur seat, announced that he quarantined himself after testing positive.

The infections come amid mounting concerns about lax distancing norms and mask wearing at crowded rallies and election meetings. Experts have pointed out that despite the election commission’s guidelines around mask wearing, restricting the number of people in rallies, thermal checking and quarantining, there have been many instances of overcrowding and violation of Covid prototol.

Deputy chief electoral officer Baiju Nath Kumar Singh said the district administration was required to ensure adherence to Election Commission guidelines. But visuals of chaotic waves of people at political rallies have indicated that guidelines were being flouted.

While announcing the election schedule last month, the Election Commission had announced unprecedented guidelines and arrangements to regulate the processes of nomination, campaigning, voting and counting. The poll watchdog procured 700,000 units of hand sanitisers, 4.6 million masks, 600,000 personal protective equipment suits, 760,000 face shields and 2.3 million gloves for poll staff. The commission also acquired 72 million single-use hand gloves for voters.

The commission left the decision on rallies and public meeting on the district administration but had said that only five people, including the candidate, can carry out door-to-door campaigning in their respective constituencies.

The pandemic has infected 208,000 people and claimed around 1,000 lives in the state.

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