Amid 21-day nationwide lockdown to arrest Coronavirus pandemic, the Kerala government has decided to issue special passes for tipplers, who have withdrawal symptoms and doctor’s prescription, to purchase liquor from the Excise department brushing aside strong opposition from medical bodies.

The move comes after many reportedly showed acute withdrawal symptoms and suicide cases were reported in the state.

With suicide cases being reported from various parts of the state after liquor sales were stopped following the Coronavirus lockdown, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had directed the Excise Department to provide liquor to those with a prescription from doctors on March 30.

The government has also asked the Excise Department to provide free treatment to and admit people with withdrawal symptoms to de-addiction centers.

The Indian Medical Association were against the government’s plan to supply liquor to addicts based on prescription, saying it was not “scientific”.

“Those showing withdrawal symptoms should be provided scientific treatment which can be given at homes or by giving medicines after admitting them at hospitals,” IMA state president Abraham Varghese said.

On Saturday, in Kodungaloor in Thrissur district, a youth committed suicide by jumping into the river after suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

“Following the lockdown and the closure of liquor outlets in the state, there were many instances of social issues including the frustration and suicide tendencies shown by those who used to consume liquor regularly and the state government has decided to initiate steps to resolve the matter,” the order read.

Those who have physical and mental issues due to withdrawal symptoms could be given liquor in a “controlled” and “prescribed” manner, stated the order.

“Persons with withdrawal symptoms should approach the Public Health Centres, Taluk hospitals, district hospitals, general hospitals or the medical college hospitals and get themselves examined by the doctor”, it added

“If such a person gets a prescription from the doctors saying he has withdrawal symptoms, he could be provided with liquor in a controlled manner,” the order read.

It said the prescription could be produced at the nearby Excise office along with a government issued identity card of the person carrying the prescription and receive a liquor pass.

The pass can be produced before the Beverages Cooperation Managing Director, who will take necessary steps to distribute liquor, the order said.

It also said that the liquor outlets need not be kept opened for this purpose.

So far the state has recorded three suicides of those who had withdrawal symptoms, allegedly upset over not getting liquor following alcohol ban.

On Saturday, in Kodungaloor in Thrissur district, a youth committed suicide by jumping into the river after suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

Meanwhile, a 68-year-old man, who had been tested positive for Coronavirus, passed away early Tuesday morning, registering Kerala’s second fatality due to the deadly virus.

The man identified Abdul Azeez from Thiruvananthapuram died at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College after suffering from kidney failure.

Azeez, who is learnt to be a former Kerala Police official, neither had a foreign travel history nor any contact with any positive patient, a fact that has baffled the authorities, who have not been able to identify the source of infection.

Kerala has presently 213 positive cases and over 1.60 lakh people under observation.

The state on Saturday, recorded its first death due to the novel Coronavirus after a 69-year-old man, who returned from Dubai and was under treatment at the Kochi Medical College following symptoms of pneumonia, passed away.

India’s first case of novel Coronavirus too was reported from Kerala, on January 30. A student, who was studying at Wuhan University in China and returned to his home state, had been confirmed of being infected with the virus.

The next two cases of COVID-19 were also reported from Kerala and the patients were also students in Wuhan.

However, all the three patients recovered and were discharged.

Meanwhile, the death toll due to the novel Coronavirus disease has reached 32 in India. On the other hand, the number of infections has risen to 1,251, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.