The Government of Georgia announced today that it will lift the restrictions on public transportation and the schools in the capital city of Tbilisi, the western city of Kutaisi, and the southern city of Rustavi, starting from February 8, and February 15, respectively, despite earlier decision to extend the measure through March 1.
The authorities said open-air food facilities, which are open on weekdays in the Adjara region since February 1, are now set to open up nationwide albeit from February 15.
The bazaars will also reopen nationwide starting February 8, instead of on February 15 as previously planned.
Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said the Government made the decision as the seven-day average COVID-19 positivity rate fell below 4% today. However, he added that the said restrictions will remain in effect during weekends.
Furthermore, the government subsidy program, which covers 80% of the loan interest rates of restaurants, will be expanded to cover sports businesses and private kindergartens, PM Gakharia said.
He added that the requirements for receiving the subsidy will also be eased, as so far only 420 of the 2000 applicants have met the criteria for the program, initially rolled out in December 2020.
However, he said businesses that “deliberately” fail to adhere to the remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be disbarred from receiving state assistance altogether.
The decision followed the recent announcement by hundreds of restaurant owners, saying they would disobey lockdown rules to open their businesses on February 6, as a sign of protest.
Levan Kokiashvili, the Director of the Gastronomic Association of Georgia, said the Government’s announcement today was the “first step” towards resolving the economic crisis in the hospitality sector.
He said that restaurant business representatives are to gather later today to discuss their further plans.
As the authorities initially on January 22 decided to maintain most lockdown measures through March 1 in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Rustavi, business owners, civic activists, street vendors took to the streets.
Protesters, notably bazaar vendors, decried “preferential treatment” of shops and shopping malls, which the authorities allowed to reopen in the cities from February 1.