District administration has asked Returning Officers to write to candidates to have their counting agents vaccinated and tested for COVID-19 status before May 2, sources familiar with the development told The Hindu.
District Election Officer and Collector had written to the ROs of the 10 Assembly constituencies in the district to write to the candidates so that the May 2 counting did not turn into a super spreader event.
On May 2, the counting centre in the Government College of Technology is likely to see at least a few hundred counting agents as the counting of votes of all the 10 constituencies will take place there. With the administration expected to lay 16 tables to count votes from as many electronic voting machines for a round, the counting room will see each candidate post a counting agent for each of the 16 tables.
And, a counting agent for postal ballots and another near the Returning Officer. This translated to 18 counting agents for a candidate and assuming there were 10 contestants in a constituency, it would mean that there would 180 agents in the counting room along with the Returning Officer, his or her support staff and security personnel.
Given the crowding that was expected on the day and the daily increase in COVID-19 cases, the administration chose to write the letter to the ROs, the sources pointed out.
Meanwhile, sources in a few political parties had asked the administration to take steps to screen those agents who were in the counting centre at present, monitoring the strong rooms. There were at least 30 of them for each of the 10 Assembly constituencies and they going in and out on turn basis posed a risk and therefore, the administration should either have them vaccinated or at least screen them every time they entered the counting centre campus.