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Industrials

Georgia bans private traffic until April 21, tightening coronavirus lockdown

TBILISI, April 16 (Reuters) - Georgia has banned the movement of all private vehicles from Friday until April 21, tightening a state of emergency in an effort to prevent spread of the coronavirus, the government said on Thursday.

“In case of violations of these restrictions, the government will be forced to declare strict quarantine,” Irakli Chikovani, the government spokesman, told a briefing.

Georgia has in place a state of emergency until May 10 entailing a 9 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew, closures of restaurants, cafes, shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, a ban on public transport and on gatherings of more than three people. Grocery stores remain open.

The Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarchy said all Easter services would be held in a traditional manner this week but parishioners would be required to maintain social distancing between each other to stem transmission of the virus.

Worshippers will be allowed to attend Easter Vigil in large churches on Saturday provided they come before the 9 p.m. start of curfew and stay on church premises until its end at 6 a.m.

Violators would face a 3,000 lari ($1,000) fine.

But Georgian preists have continued to provide the holy sacrament from the same spoon to parishioners, which critics said threatened efforts to contain the coronavirus.

Government officials and doctors have pleaded with citizens to refrain from mass gatherings and stay home during Easter festivities.

The Causacus republic of 3.7 million people has reported 348 cases of COVID-19 the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, and three deaths as of Thursday. (Reporting by Margarita Antidze Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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