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In sharp spike, TN records 527 COVID-19 cases; Liquor shops to open from May 7


Chennai, May 04: With the sharpest increase of 527 new positive COVID-19 cases and one death in the last 24 hours, the total number of coronavirus cases in Tamil Nadu on Monday climbed to 3,550, said the State Health Department.

The health department said a large number of new cases are linked to Koyembedu Market.

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Bringing in cheers to the tipplers, the Tamil Nadu government announced resumption of liquor sales from May 7 after a long dry spell due to COVID-19 lockdown since March 24, but ruled out opening the shops in containment zones and allowing bars to function.

The decision to open the state-run retail outlets across Tamil Nadu was taken after people in districts bordering Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh started making a beeline to liquor shops there which started functioning from Monday, posing a challenge in controlling people's inter-state movement, the government said in a release.

It recalled that the Centre had extended the lockdown from Monday for another two weeks, but allowed opening of liquor outlets subject to certain conditions including continued ban on operation of bars.

"Considering these, the state government has decided to open liquor shops in Tamil Nadu also from May 7, 2020. However, shops in the containment zones will not be opened," the release said adding there was also no permission for bars throughout the state.

A major revenue grosser for the state exchequer, liquor sales is nationalised in Tamil Nadu with TASMAC (Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation) being the sole agency retailing it. The TASMAC outlets have been closed since March 24 when the government effected a state-wide lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus.

On Monday, the government allowed re-opening of the shops from May 7, with a series of riders including strict implementation of social distancing norms. Crowding should be avoided and there cannot be more than five persons at a time, while the individual distance should be six feet between two persons, the release said.

The shops will sell Indian Made Foreign Liquor from 10 am to 5 pm only and all rquired security measures must be put in place, the government said, adding, adequate personnel should be employed in every outlet to prevent crowding. Liquor sales contribute mightily to the state exchequer in the state with TASMAC reporting nearly Rs 29,000 crore turn over in 2019-20 financial year.

Though implementation of prohibition is an assurance given by all political parties during the 2016 assembly polls in the state, the ruling AIADMK promised a phased exit to the dry regime.

Incidentally, during this ongoing dry period, desperate tipplers who could not lay hands on their favourite pint of booze had tried alternative 'drinks' such as after shave lotion and paint varnish to experience the high. At least six people had died in different incidents after consuming such items, said to have alcohol content.

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