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The Commission has mandated that all polling staff, security personnel, and counting staff be doubly vaccinated.

The assembly elections for five states from notifications to the counting day are going to be a tough nut to crack for the Election Commission, which, has laid out an elaborate protocol for voters and voting booths and of course, its officials. The EC announced poll schedule for five states -- UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa on Saturday. Starting with face masks during the election related activities and maintaining social distancing norms, the Commission has asked all its polling personnel/security personnel/counting staff to be doubly vaccinated before being deployed/engaged in election related activities.

The polling agent/counting agent etc would not be allowed to enter the counting hall/polling station without full vaccination and in case of those who are not, RT-PCR test within 48 hours would be required. All the entry points to such hall/room/ premises used for election purposes would have a provision for thermal scanning of all persons and sanitizer at all entry points.

man in black coat standing beside woman in black coat wearimg mask The Kit for the Polling Officer will include PPEs if needed, mask, face shield, etc. | Photo by Xingyue HUANG on Unsplash

One nodal health officer shall be designated for the State Level, the District Level, and the Assembly Constituency Level to oversee COVID related arrangements and preventive measures during the entire electoral process, the EC said. The other protocols include gloves for officials handling EVM/VVPAT and election material Kit to be prepared and distributed from in a spacious and sufficiently large hall following all safety, sanitation, and social distancing measures. The Kit for the Polling Officer will include PPEs if needed, mask, sanitizer, face shield and gloves.

Similarly, the EC has issued orders for polling arrangements following the Covid protocol. The assured minimum facilities at each polling station will have mandatory sanitization of Polling Station, preferably, a day before the poll; thermal scanner at the entry point of every polling station location; thermal checking of voters at entry point of polling station location/Polling station, either by polling staff or Para Medical staff or Asha worker; markers to demonstrate social distancing for queue; earmarking circle for 15-20 persons of 2 yards (6 feet) distance for voters standing in the queue depending on the availability of space with separate queues for males, females, and PwD/ Senior citizen voters.

social distancing Only one voter shall be allowed to stand in front of each polling official maintaining social distance. | Photo by Elizabeth McDaniel on Unsplash

While sanitizer should be provided at the entry/exit point of every polling station, EC said, it also suggested keeping face masks in reserves for those electors who are not carrying the masks. "During the process of identification of voter, the voters will be required to lower the facemask for identification," the EC guidelines said, adding, at any given time, only one voter shall be allowed to stand in front of each polling official maintaining social distance. Voters would be provided hand gloves for signing on the voter register and pressing the EVM button for voting.

Cast Balllot COVID patients and all others who may be under quarantine will be allowed to cast their vote at the last hour of the poll day. | Public domain vectors

"Most importantly, COVID patients and all others who may be under quarantine will be allowed to cast their vote at the last hour of the poll day at their respective Polling Stations, under the supervision of health authorities," the EC said. "Needless to add that anybody violating instructions on COVID-19 measures will be liable to be proceeded against as per the relevant provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides legal action under Section 188 of the IPC, and other legal provisions as applicable. District Election Officer should bring this to the notice of all concerned," Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said. (IANS/ MBI)

(Keywords: elections, pandemic, ECI, challenge, test time, COVID, social distancing mask, gloves sanitiser, polling, polling stations, PPE kit)



As the economy continues to recover from the prolonged pandemic.

By Rohit Vaid
The Centre might bestow infrastructure as well as industry status to new sectors to boost several pandemic hit industries in the upcoming Union Budget. Industry insiders said that several sectors and sub-industries such as hospitality, automobile retail, specific diganotics facilities and companies engaged in installation of EV charging stations amongst others might get the status.
The infra tag will enable these sectors to avail tax breaks, incentives and credit on lower interest rates. "Sectors which are in greenfield or which would need capex augmentation to help them overcome the pandemic can be looked from the lens of an infrastructure sector," said Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, Director and Practice Leader, Transport & Logistics, Crisil Infrastructure Advisory. "Also many of the already identified sectors need a sustained policy push which will help them get visibility both in terms of quantum and the time period of applicability."

Till now, activities associated with laying of power and telecom transmission and distribution lines, roads, highways, railways and construction of facilities such as hospitals, affordable housing, power generation units, water treatment plants, SEZs and certain type of hotels amongst others were given such status.

Besides, these sectors are a part of harmonised master list for infrastructure sub-sectors. However, in April 2021, exhibition-cum-convention centre was included in the list. "Given the focus around electric vehicle, and need for significant investment in charging stations, if the government adds the sector in infrastructure list, the benefits arising out of it will be significant," said Vishal Kotecha, Director, India Ratings and Research. "Infra tag on sectors increases ability to raise funds, access to dedicated funds and lenders, foreign capital, lower interest rates among others."

Electric car Given the focus on electric vehicles, the advantages of including the industry in the infrastructure list will be enormous. Free SVG

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Also read: Antiviral Remdesivir Receives FDA

Molnupiravur drug has received only Emergency Use Authorisation in India and abroad. Though its usage showed reduced hospitalisation during clinical trials, its biggest drawback are the side-effects, he added.

"Now, we are trying to keep a low dosage of Molnupiravir in its combination with Umifenovir which may weed out the side-effects such as the risk of cartilage and muscle damage. If successful, it will make Umifenovir more effective in Covid-19 treatment," said the chief scientist. The other combination is Umifenovir with Niclosamide.

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In a statement Thursday without identifying the victims, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stated that "on the morning of January 19, 2022, RCMP officers with the Integrated Border Enforcement Team received concerning information from their counterparts in the United States".

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) RCMP officers received concerning information from their counterparts in the United States.Wikipedia

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