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'May See Rise in Cases': Cong Slams AAP for Opening Liquor Shops, BJP Asks Kejriwal to Reconsider Move

People stand in a queue to buy liquor outside a wine shop during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). (Reuters)

People stand in a queue to buy liquor outside a wine shop during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). (Reuters)

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, slammed the Delhi government's decision to open liquor shops, claiming it can increase coronavirus positive cases by up to 10 per cent.

Opposition leaders in Delhi have hit out at the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government for its decision to open liquor shops in the lockdown on the first day of the third phase of nationwide lockdown.

While Delhi BJP leaders asked the Arvind Kejriwal to reconsider its decision on the matter saying it may lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases, the Congress said the move has been taken without any forethought as people thronged the outlets throwing to wind all caution against the spread of the virus.

Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly, Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, criticised the Delhi government's decision to open liquor shops, claiming it can increase coronavirus positive cases by up to 10 per cent.

Many government-run liquor shops which opened after over 40 days in the national capital, had to be shut as people who gathered outside the outlets didn't follow social distancing norms, forcing the police to use mild force to disperse the unruly crowd.

According to an official, about 150 government-run liquor shops have been allowed to operate from 9am to 6.30 pm in accordance with the latest lockdown relaxations given by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Many people were not aware that only government shops were allowed to open.

Queues as long as 1-3 kilometres were seen outside liquor stores, with people paying scant attention towards wearing masks and maintaining social distancing norms.

Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor asked Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Commissioner of Police AK Srivastava to review the decision of opening liquor shops.

In a letter to both Kejriwal and Srivastava, he said policemen should not be deployed to handle people outside liquor stores as they run the risk of contracting the infection.

Bidhuri who had on Sunday, written to Kejriwal against his government's decision to open liquor shops, said lockdown restrictions were being violated outside such stores.

"Opening of liquor shops in the capital caused huge crowds which completely broke the lockdown norms. There were reports of police resorting to lathicharge to control the situation. There has been an open violation of the rules of social distancing," he said in another letter to Kejriwal on Monday.

He said both liquor sellers and buyers are at risk of being infected in the wake of cash transactions during the sale and purchase of alcohol.

He urged the chief minister to reconsider the decision to open liquor shops in view of the serious condition of coronavirus in the city. Sale of liquor should be immediately stopped, he added.

Delhi BJP MLA Vijender Gupta wrote,"The scenes outside liquor shops in Delhi are worrying. It seems CM @arvindkejriwal did not have a contingency plan to deal with the situation at hands. People gathering in large numbers shows mishandling of the situation by the administration."

Meanwhile, Delhi Congress president Anil Kumar said the move will lead to the city witnessing a "sharp spike" in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, he said.

Even as Delhi has been witnessing an upward trend in the coronavirus graph, the government allowed opening of liquor shops with an eye on revenue generation, without bothering about the health of the people, he said.

"Maintaining social distance and gathering of not more than five people outside a liquor shop at any given time was violated with impunity after the shops opened today. People jostled outside liquor shops to buy booze, which forced the police to intervene and down the shutters at many places," Kumar said.

The government should have done a proper planning before allowing the liquor shops to open, as otherwise, the move will lead to a "sharp spike" in COVID-19 cases in the city, he added.