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‘Quarantini’: In a city shut down over coronavirus, New Yorkers hit the bottle

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Spirits shaken by coronavirus? Add some ice and pour out a “quarantini.”

Or two, or three — alcohol sales are skyrocketing in New York, the epicenter of the US pandemic, where liquor stores have been deemed “essential” even as most businesses closed.

Daniel Tallman of Manhattan’s Sutton Wine Shop says sales have jumped three-fold on some days, pointing to the closure of Broadway and the cancellation of the major college basketball “March Madness” tournament as turning points.

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Such shutdowns were once unfathomable, and triggered a “that’s kind of serious!” reaction, Tallman told AFP.

The New York State Liquor Authority confirmed a significant hike in alcohol sales, but declined to give specific figures.

“A lot of people drink wine with their meal and I think it’s more of a habit,” said Stefan Kalogridis, the authority’s president.

Declaring liquor stores essential, he said, “was the right decision by the governor.”

Evan Cuciniello, a sales associate at Ambassador Wines, said business has been “very good” — while customers used to buy two or three bottles, “now it’s a lot of cases.”

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“Everybody wants to drink.”

With bars and restaurants closed, more and more people are drinking at home — and sometimes attending virtual happy hours via online apps like FaceTime or Zoom to try and ward off loneliness.

But it’s not all fun and games: one store manager, who asked to remain anonymous, said “business is booming” but people are “very stressed.”

A lot of his clients work on Wall Street, he said, predicting that “when this is over, rehab clinics will make a lot of money.”

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On March 16, when New York closed schools, bars and restaurants and Wall Street collapsed 12.98 percent — its worst decline since Black Monday in October 1987 — sales at one online spirits service shot up 131 percent, said Lindsey Andrews, president of Minibar Delivery.

Addiction psychologist Andrew Washton said the current crisis has caused some of his patients to imbibe even more than before.

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One has scheduled a time with friends to meet over the app Zoom, Washton said — “to basically drink and chat for an hour to get drunk.”

Another is a lawyer who had been sober for two years and had just bought a house, anticipating his annual bonus.

But news that the company would scrap bonuses this year over virus-triggered financial struggles sent him into relapse, and he was hospitalized last week in detox.

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“I’m a little surprised that the liquor stores are still open, psychologist Washton said.

“But I understand that the government is afraid of revolts if it closes them!”

New York state has surpassed 25,000 known cases of COVID-19, with 14,900 in densely populated New York City. At least 150 people have died statewide.

And with a peak in infections at least two weeks away, glasses likely will continue to raise.

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“The whole world is anxious! We’re here to relieve that anxiousness if we can,” said Randy Ray, a wine consultant.

Andrews of Minibar Delivery said that while wine and spirits percentages are on the rise, beer actually has dropped slightly.

Except for one unlikely culprit: she said more people are ordering in Corona — the Mexican beer.


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This Europe country is housing quarantined coronavirus patients in a five-star hotel

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An ambulance driver wearing a white protective gown enters a Barcelona hotel and announces the arrival of three new "customers" -- a trio of coronavirus patients discharged from hospital into luxury quarantine.

"Good morning! How are you? My name is Enrique Aranda and I am probably the first non health care worker you see in several days," says the director of the five-star Melia Sarria hotel, peering into the ambulance.

It took just three days to convert the hotel, which features contemporary decor and bathrooms with marble finishing, into a clinic.

"Some patients arrive thinking that they were taken out of hospital to be left to die, many people are frightened. I try to make them forget all that," said Aranda, wearing mask and gloves.

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UK Labour to unveil new leader to replace Jeremy Corbyn

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Britain's main opposition Labour party on Saturday unveils a new leader who will take the helm of a defeated and divided party in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

Keir Starmer, a former director of state prosecutions and Labour's Brexit spokesman, is the runaway favourite to win the ballot of around 500,000 party members and succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

The announcement will be a low-key affair, with a planned special conference cancelled due to restrictions on social gatherings imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, the result will be put out in a press release mid-morning -- and candidates have been asked to pre-record their victory speeches.

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‘Trump fires people for telling the truth’: President blasted for ‘dead of night decision’ to fire intel watchdog

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President Donald Trump was harshly criticized on Friday for firing intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.

House Intel Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senate Intel Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) were among the lawmakers who took to Twitter to criticize Trump on his favorite social media platform.

Here's some of what people were saying about Trump's decision:

Trump’s dead of night decision to fire ICIG Michael Atkinson is another blatant attempt to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.

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