COVID-19: Georgians Allowed To Attend Easter Vigils

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 137,000 with over 2 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.

Georgia

The Georgian Orthodox Church and the government have reached an agreement that will allow parishioners to attend dusk-to-dawn Easter vigil services on the coming holiday weekend.

The agreement, announced on April 15, provides worshipers a way around a curfew and other restrictive measures that have been put into effect to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the agreement worshipers will be allowed to attend services in large cathedrals provided they maintain a distance of 2 meters. Those who attend small churches are to remain outside their church building.

The agreement also says parishioners should arrive for the services before 9 p.m. local time on April 18 and leave after 6 a.m. the following day.

“We made a joint decision with the church so that the law will not be violated and churches will not be shut down [during Easter service],” government spokesman Irakli Chikovani said at a press briefing.

The agreement was reached after two days of consultations between government officials, the prime minister, and the office of the patriarch.

Police officers will patrol church surroundings to enforce strict observance of all public health regulations, including physical distancing, on Easter Eve, Chikovani said.

Andria Jagmaidze, a spokesperson of the Georgian Orthodox Church, said that the church was taking precautionary measures to censure that traditional Easter services are not suspended, while complying with all public health recommendations. He said nothing about the communal spoon used to distribute sacramental bread and wine to churchgoers.

A Georgian national health official warned after the announcement that Georgia’s coronavirus outbreak would become like Italy’s if parishioners attend the Easter service.

Italy has been badly hit by the coronavirus, suffering more than 21,000 deaths in the pandemic, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

Easter celebrations on April 13 at the Vatican and at other Roman Catholic and Christian churches worldwide were stripped down and closed to the public in the face of the pandemic, which has infected more than 2 million people around the world and killed at least 134,000.

Emergency measures implemented in Georgia because of the health crisis include a ban on gatherings of more than three people in public, the curfew and a stay-at-home order for all citizens without special permit.

The country in the South Caucaus has reported 306 cases of infection by the virus and three deaths from COVID-19, the disease it causes, according to Johns Hopkins University database.

With reporting by Natela Zambakhidze and RFE/RL’s Georgian Service
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