By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, January 11, 2022: The State Election Commission of Odisha on Tuesday announced that panchayat polls will be held in five phases from February 16, amid strict adherence to COVID protocols.

The SEC banned rallies and victory processions in the wake of the pandemic but allowed door-to-door campaigns with only five people.

“Elections to three-tier panchayats will take place on February 16, 18, 20, 22 and 24. Over 2.79 crore people will exercise their franchise from 7 am to 1 pm. The model code of conduct will come into force immediately,” State Election Commissioner A P Padhi told reporters.

Counting of votes will be held on February 26, 27 and 28, he said.

The polling will be held for the election of members of wards, panchayat samitis and zilla parishads, Padhi said.

The elections will not be conducted in seven gram panchayats – four in Remuna in Balasore, two in Odanga in Nayagarh and one in Bijepur in Bargarh district- as these GPs have been included in the notified area councils.

The commission will encourage campaigning through digital mode, amid a rise in COVID cases, he said.

Odisha recorded 7,071 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, a sharp rise of 46 per cent over the previous day and the biggest one-day spike in over seven months, officials said.

The tally climbed to 10.83 lakh with the latest infections.

Those who have received both doses of vaccines will be allowed to enter counting centres. They are also required to submit COVID negative reports, Padhi said.

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