Ukraine tightens restrictions to fight coronavirus spread

KIEV, April 3 (Reuters) - Ukraine's government on Friday imposed a series of new restrictions designed to prevent the coronavirus outbreak spreading widely but said it hoped to soften the measures again in late April.

Ukraine reported 138 new cases of the coronavirus over the past day, taking the total number of infected people to 942 with 23 deaths.

"The coronavirus infection continues to spread in Ukraine. The only way to break the chain of infection and save lives is to strengthen quarantine measures," Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said in a televised statement.

Last month, the government imposed an emergency regime across the country with the new measures from April 6 additionally prohibiting visits to parks and sports fields, banning gatherings of more than two people, and obliging everyone to wear masks and carry ID cards when outside their homes.

Educational institutions, restaurants, cafes, entertainment and fitness centres remain closed, the government said.

Regional authorities must establish border points with mandatory inspections of passing vehicles, and all arrivals must spend a mandatory 14-days in quarantine.

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But Shmygal said that the government could soften the restrictions later this month, starting with the resumption of public transport and allowing people to go to work.

"This will allow us to restart the economy from the beginning of May," Shmygal said.

Earlier on Friday the government said it had sharply revised Ukraine's economic outlook, expecting the economy to shrink by 4.8% in 2020 due to the restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the virus.

It had forecast that the economy would grow by 3.7%. The government also expects inflation will speed up to 11.6% from an earlier estimate of 5.5%. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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