Alcohol is flowing in the southern state of Kerala ever since the Pinarayi Vijayan government started lifting the Covid lockdowns. According to local media reports, on the first day (Thursday) of the liquor sales resuming, the state-owned Beverages Corporation (Bevco) outlets alone sold liquor worth Rs 64 crore in a day. In addition to this, the outlet run by Consumer fed saw a business of around Rs 8 crore on the same day. The final estimate is likely to go up by several crores as sales figures from bars was not available yet.
According to an India Today report, Bevco has a total of 265 shops across the state, of which 40 have not opened in areas with a test positivity rate (TPR) of more than 20 per cent. Such was the pent up demand amongst Keralites that with 40 shops yet to open, the alcohol sales touched new heights, which only rivals the sales recorded during the festivals.
Vijayan last Tuesday had announced the commencement of a cautious and gradual winding down of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions from June 17. The government permitted legal alcohol as a takeaway from liquor stores and bars between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m while schools, colleges, temples, mosques, churches, shopping malls, cinema theatres, indoor stadiums, gymnasiums and beauty parlours remain shuttered.
While the sale of liquor is good news for the state government whose depleted coffers will be filled in no time, it raises doubt over the seriousness of the Pinarayi Vijayan administration to curb the spread of the virus.
According to a TOI report, India recorded 58,570 new covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours – the lowest day tally since March 30. However, for the third day running, Kerala was the only state in the country to report over 10,000 cases. Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala remain the only three states with more than one lakh active cases currently.
Nearly 20 per cent of fresh new cases yesterday were from Kerala alone. Kerala’s test positivity rate is above 10 per cent, which is frightening. For comparison, the nationwide test positivity rate yesterday was only 3.33 per cent.
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Hence it would not be hyperbole to say that while the second wave is under control almost everywhere in the country as states gear up to battle the third wave — the seemingly most progressive state in the country is still fighting the second wave and falling short. Consequently, Vijayan’s decision to open the sale of liquor has invited criticism as chances of contracting the virus at liquor stores, in absence of proper COVID protocols is increased manifolds.