India to hold elections in densely packed Bihar despite surging coronavirus cases

Indian officials announced elections involving millions of voters in a densely packed state of Bihar even as India reported 86,052 new infections of coronavirus on Friday. At this rate India is set to overtake United States by next month as the world’s most-affected nation.

Bihar with a population roughly the size of Japan, will kick off at the end of October and will be spread over three days, the Chief Election Commissioner told at a press conference.

“The elections are a leap of faith, not a leap in the dark,” said CEC Sunil Arora adding that all pandemic rules would be strictly imposed during the three-phase polls in Bihar.

Arora said more than 700,000 units of hand sanitisers, 44.6 million masks, 600,000 personal protective equipment suits, 760,000 face shields, and 2.3 million gloves have been arranged for the polling staff.

The commission would acquire single-use gloves for electors to cast their vote at the polling station.

India has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases globally, behind the United States where infections crossed 7 million on Thursday.

While New Zealand with much smaller caseloads have delayed elections. Others plan to push ahead, such as Myanmar which is holding a November general election despite opposition calls to postpone because of a fresh outbreak of cases.

India’s coronavirus case tally surged to 5.82 million in the last 24 hours. A total of 1,141 people died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours taking total deaths to 92,290.

The state of Bihar has reported more than 174,000 Covid-19 cases and 878 deaths. Experts worry, that the impoverished state has one of the country’s weakest public health systems that could easily get overwhelmed in case of a surge.