The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday modified its guidelines for West Bengal Assembly polls amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, says no roadshows and bike rallies to be allowed, and campaign rallies cannot have more than 500 people.
ECI also noted "with anguish" that many political parties/candidates are not adhering to prescribed safety norms during public gatherings.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee promised free vaccination to all above the age of 18 years after May 5.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a reduction in flights from high-risk COVID-19 nations, like India, following an alarming rise in coronavirus cases across the world. India registered over 3.14 lakh new coronavirus cases in a day, the highest-ever single-day count recorded in any country, taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases in the country to 1,59,30,965.
The previous record one-day rise in cases was held by the United States, which had 297,430 new cases on one day in January, though its tally has since fallen sharply.
Earlier, Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the new COVID-19 vaccine policy, terming it as arbitrary and discriminatory and urged him to intervene immediately to reverse it.
In a letter to the prime minister, the Congress chief alleged that the new vaccine policy implies that the central government has abdicated its responsibility of providing free vaccine to all Indians between 18 and 45 years of age.
According to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Thursday, a total of 3,14,835 fresh infections were registered in a span of 24 hours, while the death toll increased to 1,84,657 with a record 2,104 new fatalities. The national COVID-19 recovery rate fell below 85 per cent.
Registering a steady increase for the 43rd day in a row, the active cases have increased to 22,91,428 comprising 14.38 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has dropped to 84.46 per cent.
The 2,104 new fatalities include 568 from Maharashtra, 249 from Delhi, 193 from Chhattisgarh, 187 from Uttar Pradesh, 125 from Gujarat and,116 from Karnataka.
A total of 1,84,657 deaths have been reported so far in the country including 61,911 from Maharashtra, 13,762 from Karnataka,13,258 from Tamil Nadu, 12,887 from Delhi, 10,710 from West Bengal, 10,346 from Uttar Pradesh, 8,114 from Punjab and 7,510 from Andhra Pradesh.