Panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh will be held as per schedule on Thursday even as the state registered a record increase in coronavirus cases on Wednesday, The Times of India reported. Voting will take place from 7 am to 6 pm.
Uttar Pradesh recorded 20,510 new infections on Wednesday, the highest-ever rise in cases since the start of the pandemic in January 2020. It also recorded 68 deaths. Uttar Pradesh’s count of active cases stood at 1,11,835 as of Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Kaushal Kishore had appealed to the Election Commission to postpone the panchayat polls by a month in view of the coronavirus situation.
“It is my appeal to the Election Commission that the Covid-19 [situation] in Lucknow is out of control,” he said in a tweet. “Thousands of families in Lucknow are devastated because of the coronavirus, corpses are piled up at shamshan ghats [cremation grounds]. Elections are not necessary but saving the lives of people is important.”
The elections will be held in four phases. Votes will be counted on May 2. Lucknow will go to polls on April 19.
Lucknow is badly-affected by the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, the city capital registered 5,433 Covid-19 cases and 14 deaths. Most markets in the city will voluntarily remain closed on Thursday due to the coronavirus, The Times of India reported.
Amid the rise in cases, bodies are piling up at the city’s crematoriums, ThePrint reported. Lucknow’s Municipal Commissioner Ajay Dwivedi told ThePrint that 69 bodies of coronavirus victims were brought to the crematoriums on Sunday, causing a long queue due to staff shortage.
Explaining the shortage of staff, Dwivedi said that while most of them were visiting the Kumbh Mela, others were afraid of contracting the infection.
Lucknow District Magistrate Abhishek Prakash, who visited the hospitals in the city, had also told doctors to increase the number of intensive care units, isolate people and do “whatever is possible as you people are experts” as people were dying on the roads.
Dwivedi, however, said that the staff crunch was under control. “We have now employed 100 people who work in two shifts, day and night,” he told ThePrint. “We had already prepared 50 funeral pyres; the staff prepares them at night so there is no queue the next day. There have been no queues waiting Monday.”
Amid the surge in cases, Uttar Pradesh minister Brajesh Pathak had written a letter to the state’s principal secretary (health) on Tuesday about the non-availability of ambulances, Covid-19 beds and testing kits. He had also criticised officials for their laxity in handling the Covid-19 situation.
“I request you to increase the number of Covid-19 beds, and like earlier, random tests should be started and RT-PCR reports should be made available 24 hours,” he said in his letter. “Remdesivir injections [anti-viral drug] should be made available.” He also warned that a lockdown may need to be imposed if authorities do not pay attention to the situation.
On Sunday, the Uttar Pradesh government had announced a night curfew in districts that are reporting a surge in coronavirus cases and the closure of all schools in the state. The new restrictions, which were decided at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Adityanath, will be in place till April 30.