KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday asked the state government to consider opening state-run Beverages Corporation outlets in less crowded areas and avoid main roads.
A bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly, which was hearing two PILs, one by a lawyer and other initiated by the court, relating to large crowds seen in front of the outlets, violating social distancing norms during the pandemic, suggested that the government consider opening the outlets away from main roads.
The state government informed the court that it has taken steps to reduce the crowds in front of the Bevco outlets.
BEVCO told the court that liquor shops were closed for a few days and were opened on June 17 and that was the reason for the queues.
The matter will be heard again after two weeks.
The Court had on July 8 lashed out at Kerala government over overcrowding in front of the outlets and directed it's Managing Director and the State excise commissioner to file a report on the steps taken to reduce the crowds.
It said customers lining up in front of liquor shops and spilling over to public spaces and roads was certainly an affront to the dignity of society as a whole.
The court directed the state government to make sure that sufficient facilities are given to customers so that they can make their choice of purchase of liquor "in a civilised manner like any other commodity."
It also said the queues before the outlets were being seen at a time when the Test Positivity Rate was still increasing.
The lawyer, Vijayan, in his PIL, sought directions to the state to prevent overcrowding outside liquor vends during the pandemic, while the HC took up the matter on its own, based on a letter by one of its judges on the issue.
Vijayan said that despite the COVID-19 infection rate being above 10 per cent, people thronged liquor outlets of BEVCO without following the protocols on social distancing to purchase alcohol as it was not available elsewhere.
The state logged 14,539 fresh COVID-19 cases and 124 deaths on Tuesday, taking the total infection count to 30,87,673 and the toll to 14,810.
Malappuram reported the highest number of cases--2,115, followed by Ernakulam with 1,624 and Kollam, 1,404.
"Out of those found infected on Tuesday, 67 reached the state from outside while 13,582 contracted the disease from their contacts. The sources of infection of 828 are yet to be traced. Sixty two health workers are also among the infected," health minister Veena George said in a release.
She said 1,39,049 samples were tested in the last 24 hours, taking the cumulative number of specimens examined so far to 2,46,48,919.
The test positivity rate was 10.46 per cent.
Meanwhile, 10,331 people recuperated from the disease on Tuesday, taking the total cured in the state to 29,57,201.
Currently, there are 1,15,174 people under treatment in the state.
There are 3,82,260 people under observation, of whom 24,509 are in isolation wards of various hospitals, the minister said.
There are 196 local self government bodies, where the Test Positivity Rate is over 15 per cent.