The Kerala government on Wednesday closed all outlets of its state-run liquor corporation as a 21-day coronavirus lockdown began across the country, The Indian Express reported. Despite the lockdown in the state and police presence, people had continued to line up outside the outlets, sparking fears about the spread of Covid-19 infection. Kerala has 109 coronavirus cases so far, of whom four have recovered.

While announcing a lockdown in Kerala on Monday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had refused to shut down the liquor outlets, saying that the decision would lead to the flow of illicit liquor into the state and have “social repercussions”. The government has now shut down more than 300 outlets of the state-run Kerala State Beverages Corporation.

The police and Excise Department had told the government that the queues outside the liquor outlets posed a public health risk and they had to check whether the buyers were maintaining proper distance between themselves, The Hindu reported. Trade unions had also told the government that the staff at the liquor stores were worried about contracting infection from customers.

Managing Director of Kerala State Beverages Corporation Sparjan Kumar said the decision to open the retail outlets will be taken after the lockdown, The Indian Express reported. He added that he had not received any instructions from the government about online sale of liquor.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that a countrywide lockdown would come into effect from midnight in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The lockdown would last for 21 days, the longest one yet among countries hit by the pandemic. Essential services such as grocery shops, dairies and milk booths, hospitals, nursing homes, police, fire stations and ATMs will continue to work, the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

India has reported 562 cases of coronavirus so far. The highly contagious and fast-spreading virus has killed nine of these patients.