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COVID-19: New Moscow Permit System Sparks Crowds; Georgia Locks Down Major Cities


Huge lines formed in Moscow's subway system as commuters attempted to deal with the new system.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is nearing 128,000 with more than 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.


A new permit system introduced in Moscow to help authorities in their bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus sputtered at the beginning as lines snaked around some metro stations and filled some streets with traffic.

As of April 15, Moscow residents were required to obtain electronic permission online to use private or public transport in the Russian capital, with police checks creating the type of crowds authorities were looking to eliminate as the pandemic grows across the country, and especially in Moscow.

The new system took effect as Russia saw a record daily rise of 3,388 in the number of confirmed cases of the virus overnight, bringing the overall total in the country to 24,490. The federal coronavirus response center said 198 people had died from COVID-19, an increase from the previous day of 28.

According to Russian health officials, Moscow has the largest number of registered coronavirus cases in the country at 14,776, including 106 deaths, and 1,205 recovered patients.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that despite some initial issues with the permit system, the problem had eased by midday and he promised to find a way to streamline movement permit checks.

"In the morning, due to control measures conducted by the City Interior Department, queues appeared, which in the current circumstances is quite critical. I have talked to the chief of the City Interior Department and asked him to organize the work in a way to prevent mass gatherings of people," Sobyanin wrote on Twitter.

Permits to use private or public transport are divided into three categories -- to go to work and back home, to visit medical institutions, and twice a week for private purposes. Movement without a permit is punished by a hefty fine.


Georgia's government has decided to lock down four of the South Caucasus nation's main cities to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia told reporters on April 14 that his cabinet decided to take the move for Tbilisi, the capital, as well as for the cities of Rustavi, Batumi, and Kutaisi for 10 days as the country grapples with the pandemic.

Gakharia said that the decision was made after 30 more people were registered as infected with the coronavirus in one day.

"The government has decided to ban citizens from entering or leaving...the cities...starting at 9 p.m. April 15," Gakharia said.

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According to Gakharia, his government will initiate a move to extend the state of emergency that was announced in the country over the coronavirus for one month on March 21.

"We will ask President [Salome Zurabishvili] to propose that parliament prolongs the state of emergency until May 10 to be able to define our next steps to slow the [spread of the virus]," Gakharia said.

Parliamentary speaker Mamuka Mdinaradze said after Gakharia's press conference that lawmakers will most likely discuss a possible prolongation of the state of emergency on April 21 or April 22.

According to Mdinaradze, the ruling majority in parliament will support the proposal.

On April 15, Georgia's health authorities said that the number of coronavirus cases in the country had reached 306, including three deaths.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian and Georgian services
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