Delhi has over 850 liquor shops which have remained shut since March 25, when the 12-day nationwide lockdown started. The lockdown, which was scheduled to end on April 14, has now been extended till May 3 in wake of the spike in coronavirus cases across the country. Earlier this month, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) had urged 10 states, including Delhi, to allow sale of alcoholic beverages saying that a blanket ban during the lockdown to contain coronavirus has resulted in sale of illicit and spurious liquor while causing burden on exchequer. The CIABC, which includes most major Indian companies that manufacture and market their product range in India and abroad, pleaded for permitting sale of alcoholic beverages from off-shops (retail outlets) in the state during the lockdown period. It suggested that the state governments may do so by placing reasonable control measures such as curtailed shop timings, and directing outlets to strictly follow social distancing norms. The body also asked for issue of online permits and permissions enabling wholesalers in a state to receive and supply stocks to off-shops during prescribed hours. Kerala was the first state, which despite the rising COVID-19 cases, had sought to ease alcohol availability during the lockdown. A decision to home-deliver alcohol prescribed by doctors, announced state’s Excise department, was later slammed by Kerala High Court and hence struck down, earlier in the April. This means a decision on easing lockdown restrictions and resumptions of services in some sectors will be taken only after April 20. According to earlier report, the phased lifting of lockdown may be done by dividing the country into three zones -- red, orange and green - based on the number of COVID-19 cases in those areas, and allow some industrial activity in orange and green areas, where there are no COVID-19 hotspots, while maintaining standard operating procedures of social distancing.
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