The Moscow-backed authorities of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia announced on January 11 that all crossing points connecting the region to the rest of the country will be closed in relation to the “swine flu outbreak in Georgia.”
“To prevent the possibility of the virus spreading to the territory of the republic [of South Ossetia], a decision was made to temporarily suspend the crossing points operation from 8 pm on January 11 until further notice,” the region’s security service said.
The Abkhaz authorities imposed a two-month border crossing restriction as well. The region’s “security service” said the decision was made due to “adverse epidemiological situation in Georgia, related to the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza.”
Under the new rules, residents of the region will be allowed to enter Abkhazia from the Tbilisi-controlled territory, but those already in Abkhazia will be unable to cross to Georgia proper.
A total of 15 swine flu deaths have been registered by Georgian authorities, with the flu illness figure standing at around 260 cases per 100,000 persons. Health officials maintain this is far below epidemic levels.
The decision is believed to affect the residents of Gali district in Abkhazia, and Akhalgori district in Tskhinvali. The two areas are predominantly populated by ethnic Georgians, who maintain close ties with the rest of the country.
- Gali is home to some 40,000 ethnic Georgians, who make up almost all of the district’s population;
- Akhalgori is home to approximately 2,500 ethnic Georgians, who make up 55.5% of the district population.