Indian state of Bihar to allow quarantined coronavirus patients to vote in elections

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Quarantined coronavirus patients in the Indian state of Bihar will be allowed to vote in polling stations in upcoming local elections but only during the last hour before they close, officials said Friday.

The word’s biggest democracy is due to hit six million cases in the coming days, second only to the United States, as the virus rips through the impoverished and densely populated nation of 1.3 billion people.

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The announcement of Bihar’s election -- with 70 million voters, one of the biggest to take place worldwide since the pandemic began -- is the latest step by Indian authorities to return to normality even as case numbers soar.

The national election commission said Friday that coronavirus patients in quarantine can vote in polling stations “under the supervision of health authorities, strictly following COVID-19 related preventive measures.”

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It gave no further details other than to say that local magistrates would “coordinate this in their allocated polling stations.”

Additional guidelines for people in virus “containment zones” would be issued separately.

The election will be held on October 28, November 3 and November 7 with votes counted on November 10.

Read more: Coronavirus: India considers emergency authorization of vaccine as cases surge

Election candidates in the state of 125 million people can hold rallies but white circles will be painted on the ground to ensure distancing norms.

“As a commission, we don’t regard (holding the election) as a misadventure... it is a very, very meticulously worked, from our side, exercise,” election commission chief Sunil Arora told local media.

He said that the state would provide 72 million single-use gloves for use on voting machines, as well as 4.6 million face masks and 760,000 face shields, calling the exercise “a leap of faith, and not a leap in the dark.”.

The state, one of India’s poorest, is currently run by a coalition between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a regional party.

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