Two North Eastern states - Meghalaya and Assam - have decided to open liquor shops from Monday amid the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). On Sunday, Assam's Additional Commissioner of Excise S K Medhi, in a letter to all the Deputy Commissioners (DCs), said the state government has approved the opening of liquor shops with effect from April 13.
Earlier, Meghalaya government has issued an order to open liquor shops in state from April 13 to April 17 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Assam Excise department on Sunday, April 12, issued an order which said, "The state government has approved the opening of IMFL OFF/CS OFF" shops, wholesale warehouses, bottling plants, distilleries and breweries w.e.f 13/04/2020 on the permitted days."
The order stated the IMFL OFF/CS OFF shops shall remain ppen from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on the permitted days. Apart from the liquor shops, bottling plants, wholesale warehouses, breweries and distilleries have also been allowed to operate in the state starting Monday. However, they have to manage operations with bare minimum staff - not more than 50 per cent of their regular staff and workers.
"The Licensee of IMFL OFF/CS OFF shops, wholesale warehouses, bottling plants, distilleries and breweries shall be personally responsible for deploying their staff to ensure maintaining social distancing of at least one meter between customers, staff, cough etiquette and to strictly follow directives issued by National Health Mission, Assam regarding COVID-19 situation."
"The IMFL OFF/CS OFF shops may work with bare minimum staff and provide hand sanitisers to customers and staff while handling the bottles and cash. To strictly avoid overcrowding, the staff of a particular IMFL OFF/CS OFF shop may direct customers to other nearby shops," Assam Excise department's order added.
The order also stated, "The IMEL OFF/CS OFF shops shall extend full cooperation to District Administration, Excise and Police etc. Superintendent of Excise shall deploy Excise officials to monitor the compliance of directives issued by National Health Mission, Assam with reference to COVID-19 situation. The wholesale warehouses, bottling plants, breweries, distilleries must arrange to keep their staff and workers within their campus and shall arrange food and other amenities for them."
For transportation of liquor consignments, vehicle passes shall be obtained from the deputy commissioners of the respective districts. The order adds, "Any violation of the guidelines issued in regard to COVID-19 will invite cancellation of the excise license."
Assam has reported 29 positive cases for COVID-19 so far, out of which, one patient died recently.