The Georgian Government’s decision to extend COVID-related restrictions through March 1, including the ban on municipal transportation, nationwide curfew, and the closure of food facilities and winter resorts, sparked social discontent and minor protests in the capital city of Tbilisi on January 26.
Business owners, civic activists, street vendors, ski-related business representatives, as well as opposition politicians, once again gathered outside the Government Chancellery building and demanded that the authorities lift restrictions, warning to picket administrative buildings otherwise.
Separately, local marketplace traders also took to the streets in Tbilisi’s Gldani district today. They attempted to block the road but failed after meeting resistance from the patrol police.
Protesters decried the preferential treatment of shopping malls, which are set to open on February 1, two weeks earlier than marketplaces. They reckoned that outdoor markets are less likely to spread the virus than closed malls.
“We are actually starving,” said one of the vendors, adding that she had to spend the entire social assistance, GEL 300 (USD 90), on her marketplace rent debt. Albeit expressing willingness to join demonstrators outside the Chancellery building, she said she could not afford to pay for a cab to get there with the ban on public transportation in place.
Meanwhile, at the Government Administration, private sector representatives held a meeting behind closed doors with state officials and epidemiologists, hoping to reach a mutual understanding on which regulations can be lifted, albeit with no immediate outcome.
Amid the public discontent, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said today that the existing schedule for lifting restrictions can only be hastened should the rate of daily infections drop below 4% in a particular city, region, or nationwide.
Georgia performed 17,349 tests and reported 1,003 new cases of COVID-19 on January 26. To date, confirmed cases have reached 254,822, while the death toll stands at 3,096. Total recoveries amount to 244,446 and the number of active cases stands at 7,254.