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Some Covid restrictions lifted for New Year Holidays

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Wednesday, December 23
Yesterday, the Government of Georgia announced that it will lift several coronavirus lockdown rules from December 24 to January 2. With the decision of the Coordinating Council, part of the restrictions, which was announced lifted for December 24, will not be removed.

PM Gakharia announced that Georgia has slowed the spread of the virus, "however, the rate of daily infections is still high and lifting the restrictions as was previously scheduled may have a negative influence on the general situation."

The rules mainly apply to the non-essential shops and shopping malls that resume operation from 07:00 to 19:00 with a number of additional regulations:

- Only one customer will be allowed per 20 square meters

- Customer queues must be managed both indoors and outdoors

- Discounts must be announced during morning hours or online

- Dressing rooms will not operate

- The period for refunding or exchanging purchases will be extended to a one month period and should only take place after February 1

- Shopping mall food facilities will be banned, including delivery services

- Social distance and proper carrying requirements must be maintained in all spaces inside and outside the store

- The administration of trade facilities bears full responsibility for these rules and in case of any violation, all the measures prescribed by law will be applied to the facilities

Furthermore, hotels are prohibited from operating their restaurant and dining spaces after 9 pm.

The 21:00 – 05:00 nationwide curfew will remain in effect, with the New Year’s eve and Georgian Orthodox Christmas night, December 31 and January 6, respectively, being the two exceptions. Georgia’s religious minorities can also request a one-time pass via the government hotline, allowing for attendance of religious holidays that involve overnight stays.

According to Maia Tskitishvili, candidate for the post of Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development, those who want to pray at a religious event should call the government hotline (144) or the denominations should hand over their identities (name, surname, ID number) to government officials.

A special pass is required due to the curfew operating in the country. It is forbidden to move on the street from 21:00 to 05:00. A person will be fined GEL 2,000 for violating the regulation.

Easing restrictions will not affect the ban on public transportation - Public transport will still not operate in Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Gori, Zugdidi, Poti, and Telavi, and intercity traffic will be stopped in the country. The ban will still not apply to taxis and private cars. Taxis still cannot transport more than 2 passengers and wearing a mask is mandatory.

The work of marketplaces won't resume despite earlier pledges upon introducing a multi-phased 2-months-long lockdown on November 28. Tskitishvili explained that the reason for this is that it will be difficult to meet the epidemiological standards at the fairs. Noting that the ongoing lockdown helped the epidemiological situation to stabilize, Tskitishvili called on the private sector and the citizens to act responsibly and not allow the rapid spread of the virus.

On December 22 morning, the Georgian authorities reported 3,064 new daily cases, 3,740 more recoveries, and 42 new fatalities. The number of active cases to date stands at 21,910.

According to Amiran Gamkrelidze, head of the NCDC, against the background of easing the restrictions, the coronavirus rate will increase to some extent, but it is necessary to keep the rate as low as possible. He called on the population to be careful and reminded them that the medical staff is under pressure as the new wave will be difficult to manage.

“Do not go to many stores, do not go to many places with each other, this New Year should be completely modest so that we can reduce the rate of infection in the country as much as possible in January,” he said.