Protests after Georgia announces only partial lifting of Covid restrictions
Georgia will ease restrictions introduced in November 2020 due to a significant increase in the number of coronavirus infections which had begun to reach 5,000 a day.
However, one of the main expectations – the resumption of schooling and public transport – will not take place in the capital, and Tbilisi activists say they will take to the streets to voice their dissatisfaction.
Schools and public transport
From February 1, schools will open in the cities of Batumi, Zugdidi, Gori, Poti and Telavi. Public transport will also start operating in these cities, but only on weekdays.
However, in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Rustavi, both schools and transport will resume work no earlier than March. At the same time, it is planned to open kindergartens and technical schools and colleges throughout the country.
Intercity public transport remains indefinitely suspended.
It is also planned to abolish the curfew from March. Until then, all over the country it will still be impossible to go outside without special permission from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am.
Shops and retail facilities will start operating in February across the country, but will be closed on weekends.
Restaurants and cafes
Until March, restaurants and cafes will continue to work only in food delivery mode everywhere, except for the Adjara region – here, from February 1, those located in the open air will be allowed to function.
Weddings and gatherings
Weddings and any large gatherings of people are still prohibited.
Restrictions on ski resorts also remain in place.
Restrictions on scheduled flights will be lifted from 1 February. This means that all airlines can plan and operate regular flights.
The population is still required to wear medical masks in any public place, including on the street. Store employees are required to monitor the observance of social distancing between customers.
From January 22, business companies can register for free on a special portal and test their employees until March 1, with government funding.
All types of retail sites with more than 30 employees, including fairs, will be required to test at least 20% of employees every two weeks.
For catering establishments, this requirement is more stringent – testing at least 50% of employees every two weeks.
Where schools will open, all teachers will be tested every two weeks.
Planned protests over the severity of restrictions
Protests demanding the restoration of the work of schools, kindergartens and public transport will take place on January 24 in Tbilisi in Mziuri park.
“Due to the lack of Internet access, tens of thousands of children are deprived of access to education. In places in Georgia outside of large cities, where the educational process has resumed, the standards of hygiene and safety are not observed, which increases the risk of infection of children with the coronavirus,” the organizers of the protest said in a statement.
A separate protest demanding the resumption of public transport will be held on January 25 near the government building in Tbilisi by the Green Movement organization.
“According to numerous studies, the risk of contracting coronavirus in public transport is minimal. And this ban looks all the more strange since taxi traffic is allowed and shops and shopping centers will be opened,” the appeal says.
“Lack of public transport means discrimination against people with low income, who are in the majority in Tbilisi. And it is also an additional risk factor in terms of deteriorating mental health of people,” said the Green Movement.
According to the Oxford Special Index, Georgia is ranked eighth in the world in terms of the severity of restrictions imposed by the pandemic. In the first place is Azerbaijan.
The index is compiled according to the following criteria: restrictions on movement, curfews, suspension of education in educational institutions and restrictions on doing business.
The first ten of the index looks like this:
Azerbaijan – 89.8 points
Zimbabwe – 87.04 points
Eritrea – 86.01 points
Ireland – 85.1 points
Germany – 85.1 points
Israel – 85.1 points
Venezuela – 84.2 points
Georgia – 84.2 points
Cyprus – 84.2 points
The Netherlands – 84.2 points