Huge crowd at liquor shops; CM warns to withdraw relaxations

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday warned that his government will withdraw all lockdown relaxations from areas where people do not maintain social distancing and other norms after liquor shops were swarmed by people on the first day of easing of the over 40-day lockdown.

With 349 fresh cases, the number of coronavirus infections reached 4,898 in Delhi. No death was reported for the second consecutive day. Coronavirus has claimed 64 lives so far in the national capital.

After unruly customers were seen flouting social distancing norms outside liquor vends, the special branch of the Delhi Police prepared a report suggesting that the timing for sale of alcohol may be extended to avoid crowding.

According to an official, about 150 government-run liquor shops have been allowed to open from 9 AM to 6.30 PM in accordance with the latest lockdown relaxations given by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Addressing an online briefing, Kejriwal said it is sad that people were not maintaining the mandatory six feet or two metre distance from one another at some shops and requested everyone to not take any risk.

We have allowed all activities in Delhi which were permitted by the Centre but whatever has happened today is not right. We will withdraw all lockdown relaxations from areas where people are not following social distancing and other norms,” he said.

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“How long will we be under lockdown? We cannot live under lockdown forever. We will have to start all activities gradually, he added.

The chief minister further said that if there is no compliance of social distancing norms outside a shop, the government will seal it.

“We have to defeat coronavirus. I appeal to people to wear masks, maintain social-distancing and sanitise their hands,” Kejriwal said.

The police shut some liquor shops after the crowds did not follow social distancing norms, while at a few places the cops resorted to mild force.

On the first day of easing of lockdown curbs in Delhi, authorities allowed government and private offices to function with limited number of staff, and permitting shops dealing in electronics and automobile parts to gradually restart their operations.

But a large number of shop owners kept their shutters down as a precaution and some complained that there were not enough customers to remain open through the day.

The Delhi government offices, including of transport, tourism, excise and sub-registrar, opened as authorities implemented latest lockdown relaxations by the Centre.

A cabinet meeting was held at the Delhi Secretariat. Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia were among the cabinet ministers who went to the secretariat which houses several government offices.

People waited outside major banks to finish their transactions pending for weeks and ice-cream hawkers returned to streets in some areas.

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Although much fewer in number than usual days, there were several cars and two-wheelers on the road. Many people were walking down their destinations as the intra-city transport services have not resumed.

In the evening, there was traffic congestion on the Delhi-Ghazipur border as Uttar Pradesh police had put barricades that slowed the vehicular movement.

The third phase of lockdown began on Monday and it will continue until May 17 with some relaxations.

Kejriwal had on Sunday said domestic helps, those giving laundry services, electricians and plumbers are allowed to work from Monday.

However, the resident welfare associations (RWAs) across the national capital are in a dilemma over allowing domestic helps to resume work in their respective areas amid the COVID-19 threat, and want the Delhi government to come up with a policy directive on this.

The government has asked the RWAs to take a decision on allowing movement of outsiders, without considering that domestic helps need public transport to commute, said Atul Goyal, the president of an umbrella body of RWAs in the city.

Strict lockdown restrictions are continuing in coronavirus containment zones.

There are 90 containment zones in Delhi. Ten have been “de-contained”, according to officials.

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