Social Distancing Lost As Cops Fight To Keep Order

Vijayawada: As liquor sales in the state resumed on Monday after 43 days, tipplers flocked to liquor shops, ignoring social distancing norms. Police fought to control crowds as large numbers of people gathered in front of outlets from 9 am even as the opening time was scheduled at 11 am.
Vizag, Rajahmundry, Tirupati, Tenali, Anantapur and other cities witnessed chaotic scenes after shops opened. In containment zones, liquor outlets remained closed but people flocked to nearby rural areas in hopes of buying alcohol. In Chittoor district, people from Tamil Nadu gathered before liquor outlets as the ban on sale of liquor continues in the neighbouring state.
Even as social distancing was maintained in some places, women in Nellore and Vizag districts staged protests demand that liquor outets be shut down. Police stepped in and restored normalcy at some places while at others shops had to be closed down minutes after opening as controlling the crowd became difficult.
The decision of the state government to increase prices of liquor and beer by 25 per cent in a bid to discourage consumption proved ineffective in view of Monday’s turnout.
A senior officer with the prohibition and excise department said of the 3,500 liquor outlets in Andhra Pradesh , over 700 are in containment zones and malls, while around 2,365 were opened on Monday.
Officials of the prohibition and excise department said despite the queues, sales were not high. In Vizag district, liquor worth over Rs 7 crore was sold on Monday, while in other districts sales ranged between Rs 4 to Rs 5 lakh. Liquor worth over Rs 50 crore was sold in the state on Monday.
State Mahila Congress president Pedada Ramani Kumari said tipplers threw caution to the wind, violating social distancing guidelines in front of liquor shops. “There is no meaning in continuing the lockdown further as the opening of liquor outlets and the long queues for liquor will push the spread of Covid-19,” she added.
“I had seen long queues in front of few liquor outlets a day after Cyclone HudHud in 2014 as people thronged to shops suspecting that there will be no liquor in the coming days in Vizag. Now, I have seen heavy rush and long queues in front of all the liquor outlets in Vizag,” said K Prabhakar, a tippler. “Circles were drawn in front of the liquor outlets to ensure social distancing. But tipplers ignored them in many places and police remained silent spectators,” he added.
Minister for tourism M Srinivasa Rao urged those looking to buy alcohol to refrain from crowding, adding that the rush would come down in a couple of days.
In Tirupati excise district, of the 147 liquor outlets, 31 in containment areas were not allowed to resume sale while 116 outlets were opened. In Tirupati 18 outlets were not opened, while in Puttur and Srikalahasti no outlet was opened as both towns are under containment zones.
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