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Georgia Declares State of Emergency Due to Coronavirus Outbreak
22 March, 2020
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JAM News

Editor's Note: The following is an article by Hromadske's partner, JAM News. It first appeared on their webpage.

Georgia declared a state of emergency, in effect until April 21, after the Georgian president approved the prime minister’s proposal.

The decision was made as an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Specific decrees will be discussed in parliament in the upcoming days. In the meantime, here is an analysis of what we already know, what restrictions may be put into place, and why such radical measures are needed.

The main goal is to reduce contact between people

“We must be prepared for the second wave, when the number of infected people will rise and the virus becomes a serious epidemic,” announced Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili.

At the time the state of emergency was declared, there were 48 confirmed cases in Georgia. Nearly two thousand (1,966) people are quarantined or at risk of infection.

Over the course of several days, representatives of the healthcare system have announced that the epidemic has reached a new stage, and now many local residents are getting sick, not just those who became infected abroad.

The Georgian government had already put serious restrictions in place, even before declaring a state of emergency. Schools and universities have been closed for more than two weeks; minibuses are prohibited; all stores and factories are closed, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and several bank branches.

The main goal of a state of emergency is to reduce person-to-person contacts in order to stop the spread of the virus.

No more than ten people in one place

One of the main limitations is that no more than ten people can gather in one place.

This restriction also applies to church services. Therefore, the Easter liturgy on March 22, which many Orthodox Christians were expecting to attend, will not take place.

It also applies to stores and pharmacies. Even while in the store, people should be stand at least two meters apart. Store owners are expected to enforce this.

This restriction also means that people should not hold weddings or other celebrations. At funeral ceremonies, people should gather outdoors and stand at a distance from each other.

No curfew

At this stage, no curfews are being imposed in Georgia and people are free to go outside.

At this stage, only the movement of minibuses is prohibited. However, the Prime Minister warned that if people do not take into account the basic recommendation to stay at home, restrictions on movement may be imposed.

Possible loss of property ownership rights

This means that if the situation gets any worse, the government maintains the right to use private hotels, clinics or other buildings for quarantine or treatment measures.

No restrictions on the media

The state of emergency does not impose any restrictions on the dissemination of information or the work of journalists.

Punishment for non-compliance with emergency requirements

The penalty for non-compliance is 3,000 GEL [about $ 1,000] for individuals and 15,000 GEL [about $ 8,000] for legal entities. 

Repeat violators will be held criminally liable and are subject to up to three years in prison.

Relief for the unemployed

The prime minister announced that in the coming days, a plan will be developed for providing concrete assistance to citizens who have lost their jobs due to the epidemic.

Giorgi Gakharia identified four key areas that require particular attention from the Georgian government during the state of emergency:

  • Healthcare (for which the Minister of Health is responsible);
  • Civil order and safety (for which the Minister of Internal Affairs is responsible);
  • Food, logistics and transport (for which Minister of Agriculture Levan Davitashvili is responsible); and
  • Minimizing damage to the economy and ensuring a rapid economic recovery (for which the Minister of Infrastructure, Deputy Prime Minister Maya Tskitishvili is responsible).