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    Maharashtra minister says 'there should not be a ban on liquor stores' if distancing norms followed

    Maharashtra minister says 'there should not be a ban on liquor stores' if distancing norms followed

    Maharashtra minister says 'there should not be a ban on liquor stores' if distancing norms followed
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    By Yash Jain   IST (Updated)

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    Liquor shops in Maharashtra can remain open while maintaining social distancing norms amid the ongoing coronavrius lockdown, state health minister Rajesh Tope said on Monday.

    Correction: A previous headline of this copy said that sale of alcohol will be allowed in Maharashtra. It has been changed to incorporate the minister's quote verbatim, which said liquor stores should be allowed if social distancing norms are followed.
    Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope has said that "there should not be any ban on liquor shops in the state" if proper social distancing norms are maintained.
    Tope, who was addressing journalists over a video press conference, did not specify whether he meant this as his view or a formal policy statement.
    The state government has not issued any notification in this regard though the minister later tweeted that a decision on this will be announced.
    Already, some states like Meghalaya and Assam have allowed liquor shops and wholesale warehouses to remain open for limited hours since last week.
    Last week, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) had written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray with recommendations for phased resumption of business—from distillery to wine stores—given the revenue and employment implications for the state.
    Key among CIABC’s recommendations for the phased restart of retail liquor stores included:
    • Retail licenses granted for year 2019-20 which expired on 31 March 2020 should be extended until June 30, 2020.
    • Shops outside identified COVID19 hotspots should be allowed to open in following phased manner. Keeping shops open for longer is to help spread customers. From April 15th to May 15th – from 9 am to 11 pm From May 15th to June 15th – from 11 am to 11 pm June 15th onwards – normal timing.
    • Shops should be permitted to sell stock purchased or ordered in 2019-20 till stocks last.
    • No demurrage should be charged for stock lying in government retail shops until June 30.
    • No retail shop should be manned by more than two salesmen.
    • No shop should permit more than two customers if it’s a walk-in shop or one customer if it’s single window shop. All shops must make circle markings outside for customers to stand.
    • In addition, CIABC also requested that state governments in general should allow home deliveries of alcohol subject to necessary checks
      and diligence.
      Maharashtra is the worst-affected state in the country with most number of cases and fatalities in the country reported from the state. It announced some relaxation in the lockdown, which has seen all services deemed non-essential shut until May 3. The relaxations came into effect from Monday.
      About 400 new positive coronavirus cases have been reported in the state in the last 24 hours and nine people have died due to the virus.
      Tope revealed that Maharashtra has done 76,000 coronavirus tests in the state, while Mumbai alone has conducted over 50,000 tests. Maharashtra has done most number of tests in the country, he added.
      The state has decided to undertake 75,000 rapid tests in the coming days, said Tope.
      On the measures that the state has taken to contain the pandemic, Tope said that there are about 6,000 surveillance teams working in the state. Further, he added that every COVID-19-related death will be audited.
      There is also a concern about people hiding coronavirus symptoms. “People are hiding symptoms despite the recovery rate being high,” Tope rued.
      On concerns about hydroxychloroquine’s administration being unsafe for people with heart ailments, Tope said that the anti-malarial drug will be given only top to patients who do not have any heart problems. An estimated 10,000-15,0000 health workers will be given hydroxychloroquine, he added.
      Tope urged doctors in the state to “run their clinics and not sit at home.”
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