GUWAHATI, March 3: The postal ballot facility to COVID-19 patients or suspect apparently lacks sense, given that the last date for submission of the required form is three weeks before the polling date.
For the first phase of polls which is slated for March 27, the last date of submission of the Form 12D is March 6. The postal ballot facility has been extended this time to even COVID-19 positive patients and suspects, besides a few other categories.
However, if a person is COVID-19 positive on or before March 6, he will be cured by the date of polling – March 27.
According to the standing protocol for treatment and discharge, a COVID-19 patient can be discharged after 10 days of symptom onset and no fever for three days. There will be no need for testing prior to discharge. At the time of discharge, the patient will be advised to isolate himself at home and self-monitor their health for further seven days.
“This means, even if a person is infected on March 6, he or she will be virus-free by the polling date. So the postal ballot facility makes no sense, unless he or she is hospitalized till the polling date,” doctors said.
Same is the case with a COVID-19 suspect. “If anyone is a suspect on March 6, he or she will require a quarantine of 14 days. So, by March 20 he can be released from quarantine. Even for this person, the postal ballot will make no sense,” they said.
The State election authorities have not yet spelt out the protocol to be followed for voters in the first phase who are tested positive after March 6.
The ECI had last year set some general guidelines for elections during the pandemic. Basic COVID-19 rules of social distancing, thermal scanning, sanitisation, use of masks among other things, have been highlighted by the ECI. The number of maximum electors in a polling station has been brought down to 1,000 from 1,500.
Based on these guidelines, a detailed COVID-19 related comprehensive plan is required to be prepared at the state level taking into account local conditions. In case of general elections, three-layered plan – constituency, district and state level – is needed in consultation with nodal health officers.
In some local elections elsewhere in the country, COVID-19 patients and suspects were allowed to vote wearing PPEs. They were allowed in extended time after ordinary voters cast their votes. In some cases, special postal ballots were also issued a day before polling.
On an average 15-20 positive cases are being detected in the State every day. The number of active cases in the State stands at 285. At the positivity rate of 0.11 per cent, 15 new positive cases were detected out of 13,856 tests done yesterday in the State.
Significantly, the postal ballot facility can be availed by media persons recognized by election authorities for polling duty, according to ECI guidelines. Even in this case, the facility makes no sense because election authorities issue identity cards (passes) to journalists covering polling events only a couple of days before the date of polling.