Covid-19 protocols violated as early trends trigger celebrations in Bengal
Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers and supporters gathered outside counting centres and on roads, as they played with colour, danced to beating drums and blew trumpets in violation of the Covid-19 norms as the party appeared set to return to power for a third straight time in West Bengal. Safety protocols, including wearing masks, maintaining social distance and using sanitisers, were violated at separate places. Party workers and supporters were seen smearing colour and hugging each other as many of them were without masks. Huge gatherings could be seen on the roads and at the counting centres.
Votes for 822 assembly seats in four states and a Union territory were being counted on Sunday after the largest electoral exercise amid the pandemic. The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday said it has taken measures to limit the threat of the outbreak at its counting centres across the country by putting in place elaborate Covid-19 arrangements as the country battles the world’s worst outbreak of the disease. It has been criticised for allowing political parties to hold rallies with thousands in attendance with little to no regard for Covid-appropriate behaviour.
Javed Khan, a TMC lawmaker who was leading from Kasba near Kolkata, said Covid protocols should be maintained. “I have asked my supporters and party workers not to violate the rules,” he said.
Earlier this week, the ECI banned all victory processions during or after the declaration of election results on Sunday. The order came a day after the Madras high court held the ECI accountable and blamed the poll body for the second Covid-19 wave that has overwhelmed the country’s health care system.
Police could be seen making announcements on loudspeakers asking crowds to disperse. They reiterated Covid protocols such as the wearing of masks and social distance.
Daily coronavirus infections have risen over 80 times in West Bengal since the ECI announced assembly elections on February 26, prompting health experts to link the surge in cases to political rallies that violated Covid-19 protocol.
West Bengal reported 17,512 Covid-19 cases on Saturday, compared to 216 on February 26.