India extends ban on political rallies over COVID 19

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India extends ban on political rallies over COVID 19

NEW DELHI, Jan 15, Reuters -- India's election commission has extended its ban on political rallies and roadshows in five states on Saturday due to rising COVID 19 cases in the country.

The ban, which runs until January 22, excludes all indoor political party events of less than 300 people, or 50% of a venue's capacity, the watchdog said.

India reported 268,833 new coronaviruses in the last 24 hours, taking its total tally to 36.84 million, according to data from the federal health ministry. Deaths from COVID 19 rose by 402 to 485,752.

Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state and a key battleground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will hold elections next month. The poll in the northern state, currently run by Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, is a barometer for the national elections due to take place in 2024.

The northern states of Punjab and Uttarakhand, the tourist hotspot Goa and the northeastern state of Manipur will also hold elections in the coming months.

Modi's government was criticised last year for handling the pandemic during a second wave that overran healthcare systems across the country.