After closing down all liquor outlets in the state amid the 21-day nationwide lockdown because of coronavirus, the Kerala government on Monday said that it will provide alcohol to people with a doctor’s prescription and provide treatment to those experiencing withdrawal symptoms, ANI reported. The government’s decision came after reports of suicides over non-availability of liquor.

The Kerala government is also considering online sale of liquor after its decision to shut state-run outlets.

At a press conference on Monday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the non-availability of alcohol might create social problems and directed the Excise Department to provide liquor to those with a prescription from doctors. The government has also ordered officials to admit people to de-addiction centres.

Two men from Thrissur and Kochi had killed themselves on Friday over not being able to get liquor, News18 reported. On Saturday, four other men from different places in Kerala killed themselves. Another man died after consuming shaving lotion because he could not find any liquor.

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Last week, Kerala closed all outlets of its state-run liquor corporation as the 21-day coronavirus lockdown began across the country. Despite the lockdown in the state and police presence, people had continued to line up outside the outlets, sparking fears about the spread of the coronavirus infection. Vijayan had refused to shut down the liquor outlets, saying that the decision would lead to the sale of illicit liquor and have “social repercussions”.

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 buyers were maintaining proper distance between themselves. Trade unions had also told the government that the staff at the liquor stores were worried about contracting infection from customers.

Kerala has 194 cases of the coronavirus so far, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Nineteen people have recovered and one person has died.