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Lanka polls: Election rallies of president, PM cancelled temporarily after spike in COVID-19 cases

Lanka polls: Election rallies of president, PM cancelled temporarily after spike in COVID-19 cases

All election rallies of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have been cancelled temporarily, the SLPP announced on Sunday, following a spike in coronavirus cases in the country.

The parliamentary elections in the island nation are scheduled for August 5. The country has so far reported 2,511 COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths.

All election rallies of President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Mahinda scheduled for July 12, 13 and 14 have been cancelled, the Sri Lanka People's Party (SLPP) said in a press release.

The announcement came as the country recorded a jump in COVID-19 cases since the middle of this week. Sri Lanka on Friday recorded its highest single-day spike of 300 coronavirus cases in a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts in the north central region. Fifty-seven more cases were reported on Saturday.

Sri Lanka's top election official had also expressed concern over the delay in enforcing the COVID-19 health guidelines for the August 5 parliamentary elections, warning that candidates and supporters were defying measures to contain the spread of the disease which could endanger public safety.

Mahinda Deshapriya, Chairman of the National Election Commission, said the health guidelines for conducting the elections were announced on June 2 but they have not been legalised through a gazette notification.

The health guidelines require wearing face masks, frequent hand washing and maintaining one-metre distance. The number of people at poll campaign gatherings has also been reduced to a bare minimum.

President Gotabaya on March 2 dissolved the Parliament, six months ahead of schedule, and called for snap polls on April 25. However, the election commission in mid-April postponed the elections by nearly two months to June 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak in the island nation. The commission last month informed the apex court that the polls cannot be held on June 20 because of the coronavirus pandemic and the new date was decided following a unanimous decision reached between the members of the commission.

There are over 16 million eligible voters in the country. The August 5 poll will elect a 225-member Parliament for a five-year term.

Meanwhile the ministry of education said schools would be closed again if adequate COVID-19 preventive measures are not taken by the respective school authorities. Schools were reopened last week in the country.

The Sri Lanka Medical Association has also expressed concern over the "blatant lack" of measures required to control the spread of the deadly virus.