Georgia introduces new restrictions for two months to curb COVID-19

TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia is to introduce more coronavirus restrictions including new curfew hours, the closure of most shops, restaurants, swimming pools and gyms and the restriction of transport and a ban on sports and cultural events.

FILE PHOTO: Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia speaks to media after voting at a polling station during a run-off of parliamentary election in Tbilisi, Georgia November 21, 2020. Press Service of Georgian Government/Handout via REUTERS

The South Caucasus country’s prime minister, Giorgi Gakharia, said on Thursday the new measures would come into force on Saturday and last until Jan. 31. Restrictions will be temporarily eased from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 and on Jan. 6-7 for the Orthodox Christmas.

He said a curfew would be imposed across the country, instead of only in big cities, and would start one hour earlier, at 10 p.m., and last until 5 a.m., restricting the movement of pedestrians and vehicles.

All restaurants, cafes, open markets, shopping malls, swimming pools and gyms will be closed for two months, although food delivery, drive-in and take-away services will be allowed.

Banks, grocery shops, pet shops, pharmacies, agrarian markets will work with no restrictions.

Hotels will be used only for people infected with the coronavirus and all winter resorts will be closed. The movement of private cars and taxis is not restricted.

Gakharia said that 80% of employees would be moved to online working, online study at schools and universities would continue while state and private kindergartens would close.

The country of 3.7 million people has already made it mandatory to wear masks both indoors and outdoors.

The New Year holiday is also extended from Jan. 3 to Jan. 15. Restrictions would be lifted from Jan. 16 but would be applied on weekends until Jan. 31.

In all, Georgia has reported 118,690 cases of the coronavirus with 1,124 deaths. The number of infections started to rise sharply at the beginning of September.

Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Editing by