Corona Updates: Decrease in Daily Cases Leads to Easing of Restrictions

During the week, the epidemiological situation in Georgia has been relatively stable, with the daily number of new coronavirus cases significantly decreasing. The above improvement led to the government’s decision to ease certain restrictions earlier than planned.

From February 8, municipal transport (metro, buses and minibuses), and public markets and fairs, will open countrywide. Intercity transport, however, will remain limited to taxi and private car.

From February 15, the education process will be resumed in the classrooms in Tbilisi, Rustavi, and Kutaisi, just two weeks behind the same allowance throughout the rest of the country. The same day, outdoor catering establishments will be allowed to reopen to sit-out customers.

Weekend & continued Closures

Transport, shopping malls, shops, fairs and restaurants will be closed on weekends;

Fitness clubs, swimming pools, cinemas, entertainment centers, bars, and nightclubs will remain closed;

The curfew remains in force between the hours of 21:00 and 05:00;

Large-scale ritual events (weddings, funerals, etc.) continue to be prohibited.

The Statistics

During the past week, 500-800 cases on average have been reported daily against the background of expanded testing, with Georgian capital Tbilisi recording the highest number of COVID-19 cases, followed by Imereti and the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti regions.

Regarding the test-positive indicator, the daily rate as of February 3 is 3.51%, for the past 14 days - 4.41% and 7 days 3.7%.

Georgia’s total case tally now stands at 260,480 since February last year, of which 251,748 people recovered and 3240 died.

At present, active cases of COVID-19 have reached 5466. 2341 of those individuals are being treated in hospitals, of which 1109 are stationed in Tbilisi, 184 in Adjara and 463 in Imereti. 529 patients are in critical condition: 231 in Tbilisi, 45 in Adjara and 133 in Imereti. Ventilators are currently being used to keep 153 patients alive: 107 in Tbilisi, 6 in Adjara and 14 in Imereti. 277 individuals are in clinical hotels, of which 185 are based in Tbilisi, 81 in Adjara and 11 in Imereti. 2848 individuals are being treated at home. 430 individuals are in quarantine, of which 200 are located in Tbilisi and 126 in Adjara.

The Vaccine

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia reported that the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which has tested over 95% effective against the coronavirus, will arrive in Georgia by late February.

He thanked the Director-General of the World Health Organization for his unprecedented support in this.

“The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine are due to arrive in Georgia by late February. Special thanks to my country's and my personal friend, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for supporting Georgia. According to the National Plan for Vaccination, the first doses will be administered to healthcare workers,” the PM said.

Tightening the Rules

Notably, in parallel with easing restrictions on the coronavirus pandemic, the government plans to tighten the rules. As such, in case of repeated violation of the rule of wearing a face mask, the fine will be doubled. Based on the current regulations, a person is fined 20 GEL for not wearing a face mask. When doubled, the fine will amount to 40 GEL.

The PM noted that tightening the rules “Should reveal the responsibility of each citizen and organization.”

The Protests

Prior to Thursday’s government announcement on lifting some restrictions two or three weeks earlier than planned, the Gastronomic Association of Georgia published a public post saying that on Saturday, February 6, some 200 restaurants will resume operations despite the still-imposed COVID restrictions. Levan Qoqiashvili, the founder board director of the Association, wrote of the decision on Facebook.

“Unfortunately, the expectations of the hospitality industry were not met; instead of finding a reasonable solution, the meeting with the government officials was postponed and then did not take place. Since we do not see any other solution, despite persistent efforts, we decided to open restaurants on February 6th. We fully understand all aspects of our determination and it is not easy for us to make such a decision,” Qoqiashvili wrote.

For two months, from November 28, restaurants across Georgia have only been able to work through "delivery service", with hosting a guest on the spot resulting in a fine of 10,000 GEL. From February 1 (except weekends) Batumi restaurants have been allowed to host guests in open spaces, but not restaurants elsewhere in the country.

On Wednesday, Georgia’s Economy Minister Natia Turnava warned restaurant owners that the illicit openings planned for February 6 will be countered with a harsh government response.

“Our Ministry has been blamed for lack of communication, which is not the case. We communicate on an almost daily basis with representatives of the hospitality sector, including restaurant owners. Because restaurants cannot be opened in other parts of Georgia except Adjara, it is understandable that many are dissatisfied. But this is no excuse for breaching the law and disregarding the epidemiological situation in the country. If the restaurants defy the rules and reopen on February 6, the government’s response will be harsh,” she said.

Following Thursday’s announcement allowing restaurants with open-air spaces to serve sit-out customers from February 15, we await updates from the Gastronomic Association of Georgia as to whether Saturday's protest “opening” will go ahead.

By Ana Dumbadze

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04 February 2021 19:38