Virus cases cross 6,000 mark in TN, HC orders closure of liquor shops; allows online sale

(Eds: Combines virus and related stories) Chennai, May 8 (PTI) As many as 600 people tested positive for coronavirus on Friday taking the total cases in Tamil Nadu to 6,009, as the Madras High Court ordered closure of liquor shops a day after they reopened citing violation of guidelines but allowed door delivery and online transactions.

Actor Kamal Haasan-led Makkal Needhi Maiam, which also had moved the court against the opening of liquor outlets, and main opposition DMK welcomed the court ruling.

A Shramik Special train, meanwhile, departed to Hatia in Jharkhand from Katpadi in Vellore District of Tamil Nadu.

The passengers were patients and their care givers who had come to Vellore for treatment at CMC Hospital and got stranded due to the lockdown, General Manager, Southern Railway said on his twitter handle.

Similar trains had been operated in recent days from here and Katpadi to ferry guest workers and others like those who had come to for medical treatment.

Three men died of COVID-19 including an octogenarian and of the total 4,361 active cases as on date, 1,589 were linked to the Koyambedu market here, a health department bulletin said.

The market for vegetables, flowers and fruits here is seen as the biggest hotspot for the spread of the contagion in Tamil Nadu eclipsing the earlier single source (a Delhi event in which about 1,500 people from Tamil Nadu had taken part in March) for the dispersion of the virus.

The market is barred for public now and it is being shifted to suburban Tirumazhisai and Chief Minister K Palaniswami is expected to inspect arrangements at the new, makeshift premises.

As seen in earlier days, there were a number of children below 10 years among the newly infected.

A bench of Justices Vineet Kothari and Pushpa Satyanarayana of the High Court noted that there were huge crowds before the shops and no social distancing was maintained.

Passing order on a petition filed by advocate G Rajesh, besides a plaint by MNM, the bench said there was total violation of its interimorder issued on Wednesday, when it declined to stay a government order allowing resumption of sale of liquor.

Besides the guidelines issued by the state government and the TASMAC, the sole retailer of liquor in Tamil Nadu, were also violated, it said.

However, the court allowed online sale of liquor and door delivery till the lockdown to check spread of coronavirus was over.

After a dry spell of 43 days due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown since March 24, liquor sales resumed at the TASMAC outlets in Tamil Nadu except Chennai on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the bench had directed the government to ensure strict implementation of all appropriate rules, as notified by the state, including maintenance of social distancing at liquor shops while allowing the resumption.

When the matter came up on Friday, petitioner Rajesh submitted there was a total violation of the guidelines framed as per G.O.No 223 of May 5 and also the norms stipulated by TASMAC and the court.

Kamal Haasan in a tweet welcomed the ruling saying it has proved that trust on court and truth will triumph. DMK chief M K Stalin welcomed the order and asked the government to not appeal against it.PTI COR SA VGNBN WELCOME VGNBN WELCOME