Pradeep Pattanayak

The State Election Commission (SEC) of Odisha has issued a revised set of instructions for the counting exercise to be followed after the five phased Panchayat Elections in the State.

With significant improvement in the Covid situation in the State, the SEC has now relaxed some restrictions previously imposed on the counting procedure. 

Earlier, the SEC had instructed that RTPCR or RAT test would be mandatory for officials to enter counting centres within 48 hours of commencement of counting even if they are fully vaccinated.

However, in view of the sharp decline in the number of fresh cases of Covid-19, the SEC has revoked the earlier instruction of mandatory testing. It has now said that all persons entering the counting hall will be thermally scanned and only fully vaccinated persons will be allowed inside the counting hall. This apart, the poll body has instructed that anyone eligible for entry into counting centres will however be not allowed pass if they exhibit Covid symptoms.

Notably, Odisha reported a record low of 388 fresh cases on Monday. The daily caseload of all districts in the State has now come down to double digits. Khordha registered highest 53 cases, followed by Gajapati (30) and Sambalpur (24). At the same time, as many as 1,049 patients have recovered from the disease. 

Of the total five phases of the Panchayat elections in the State, the first three phases have already concluded and the fourth and fifth tranches will take place on Tuesday (February 22) and Thursday (February 24) respectively. The centralized counting of votes will be held at Block headquarters on February 26, 27 and 28. 

During the fourth phase of election, polling will be held in 64 blocks of 27 districts. Around 51,31,000 voters will elect representatives for 163 Zilla Parishads and 1,254 Panchayats. While 667 Zilla Parishad candidates are in fray for the elections.