The wait for booze at liquor vends in Kerala for tipplers in serpentine queue just got a little longer.
Reason:Social distancing due to the coronavirus scare.
Bacchus lovers in this coastal state, known for its high consumption of alcohol, are being asked to maintain adequate gap while standing in queue at the state-run retail outfits.
An image from Kannur district in north Kerala showing customers made to maintain a one-metre distance between each other while standing in the serpentine queue before the liquor vend extending well outside the building went viral on Thursday.
Some videos also surfaced later, showing guards at liquor outlets marking the one-metre distance, which has been suggested as part of prevention protocol to check the spread of coronavirus.
Similar scenes were witnessed at other Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC) outlets since Thursday with the state reporting 25 confirmed COVID-19 cases under treatment and over 31,000, including 237 in hospitals, under surveillance.
Even though the Left front government has ordered a halt to public functions and closure of educational institutions, there is no move yet to down shutters of liquor shops which contribute a lion's share to the state treasury.
"Usually liquor outlets are crowded, but after the spread of COVID-19 we got directions from the state government to take necessary precautions at the shops. We have provided masks, gloves and sanitisers for the staff," KSBC Managing Director Sparjan Kumar, an IPS officer, told PTI on Friday.
Kumar said three additional guards have been posted at every Indian Made Foreign Liquor(IMFL) outlet now to prevent crowding.
"The job of these guards is to ensure that at any given time, not more than 25-30 customers are present at the outlets and to ensure there is a gap of one metre between persons who have queued up to purchase liquor," he added.
An autorickshaw driver, who says he is a regular customer, has no complaints, saying they have to follow rules.
"We can go out and buy liquor as we like. There is no shutdown for the liquor shops here. I have not gone out of the country or neither have I met anyone infected, as far as I know. But, we need to follow the rules. The staff at the shops wear masks and provide a sanitiser," Satheesan said.
While several had questioned the logic of keeping bars and liquor outlets open while closing down other institutions, state Excise Minister T P Ramakrishnan has said there is no need to shut liquor shops.
A senior official of the excise department said closing liquor shops in the state may lead to tipplers consuming spurious liquor "which is more dangerous".
Sanjay Kumar, a retired government servant, concurred with the view.
"It's a good thing that the government had not shut down the liquor stores. If it had done that, spurious liquor would have got into market. Anyhow, only those who badly need liquor will go to shops. Now, we can see a disciplined crowd there too," he said.
Earlier this week, state Health Minister K K Shailaja and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had called for maintaining social distancing among people of the state to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)