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COVID-19 Georgia Live Blog: Total Cases – 211, Recoveries – 50

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As of April 8, 21:00, Georgia has confirmed 208 cases of the novel coronavirus. 50 infected patients have now recovered and undergo self-isolation. 3 patients have died from coronavirus. Currently, 4682 people are kept in a 14-day mandatory quarantine, while 375 patients remain under observation in hospitals. 

(Data will be updated according to the state-run website stopcov.ge – Civil.Ge’s note)

Wednesday, April 8

22:10 GMT+4 – Three More Cases Takes Georgia’s Total Confirmed Cases to 211

According to StopCov.ge website, three more patients tested positive for COVID-19 in Georgia, bringing the country’s total confirmed cases to 211. With 50 recoveries and 3 deaths, the number of active cases stands at 158.

21:00 GMT+4 – Nighttime Curfew Enacted in Gagra District 

Acting Abkhaz leader Valery Bganba has imposed a curfew from 20:00 to 07:00 [21:00 to 08:00 GMT+4, Tbilisi time – Civil.ge’s note] in occupied Gagra district, in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. According to the decree, violators will be detained until the end of the curfew. 

The decision about curfew came as the region confirmed its first novel coronavirus case in Gagra.

Earlier, Moscow-backed Abkhaz authorities announced the State of Emergency on March 28 effective until April 20.

20:07 – GMT+4 – Abkhazia Confirms Second Coronavirus Case

Moscow-backed Abkhaz authorities confirmed the second case of the novel coronavirus in the region. The new patient had contracted the disease from Abkhazia’s patient zero. 

The new infected patient undergoes self-isolation, noted Abkhaz health authorities, adding that his/her medical condition remains satisfactory.

As part of contact tracing of the first infected patient, who tested positive for COVID-19 on April 7, Abkhaz authorities performed six follow-up testings. The results of the five other persons who had contacts with Abkhazia’s patient zero came negative. 

19:35 GMT+4 – Two More Patients Recover, Increasing Total Recoveries to 50

According to the Government-run StopCov.ge website, two more patients have recovered, increasing Georgia’s coronavirus recoveries to 50.

16:55 GMT+4 – Health Minister Speaks of Allocating Additional Hospital Beds

Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze statedthat 3,500 hospital beds have been allocated for treating coronavirus-infected patients throughout the country. She said there is also space available for additional 10,000 patients who do not need to be placed at hospitals but rather be kept in quarantine. 

16:30 GMT+4 – Locally Manufactured Face Masks Available at Pharmacies

Georgian Economy Minister Natia Turnava announced today that 400,000 locally manufactured multiple use  face masks are already on sale at large pharmacies: Aversi, PSP, Pharmadepot and GPC. According to Turnava, the face masks will cost 0.5 GEL. 

14:30 GMT+4 – Additional Thermal Screening Checkpoints to be Set Up in Vani Municipality

Additional thermal checkpoints will be set up in Vani Municipality in western Georgia’s Imereti region to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Irakli Chikovani, Prime Minister’s spokesperson made the announcement after the ad hoc task force meeting today. Accoridng to Chikovani, the decision follows the new COVID-19 case in the municipality. 

12:25 GMT+4 – Two More Patients Recovered, Taking Number of Recoveries to 48

Government-run StopCov.ge website reports that two more patients have recovered, bringing Georgia’s coronavirus recoveries to 48.

12:00 GMT+4 – Police Fine 158 People for Defying State of Emergency Rules

Law enforcement officers have revealed 158 new cases of disobeying state of emergency regulations within the last 24 hours in Georgia. In particular, police have fined 121 citizens for defying the nationwide curfew between 21:00-06:00; four citizens – for public gathering; two citizens – for violating rules of quarantine and self-isolation; 31 citizens – for transporting passengers and violating state-imposed restrictions on driving.

09:45 GMT+4 – Twelve More Confirmed Cases Increase Total to 208

The government-run website StopCov.ge shows that twelve more patients have tested positive for COVID-19 in Georgia, increasing total confirmed cases to 208. 

Tuesday, April 7

22:30 GMT+4 – One More Patient Tests Positive for COVID-19, Bringing Total Cases to 196

According to government-run website StopCov.ge, one more patient tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing total confirmed cases to 196. With 46 recoveries and 3 deaths, the number of Georgia’s active cases stands at 147.

20:20 GMT+4 – One More Patient Recovered, Taking Number of Recoveries to 46

Government-run StopCov.ge website reported that one more patient has recovered, bringing Georgia’s coronavirus recoveries to 46.

19:07 GMT+4 – Abkhazia Confirms First Coronavirus Case

Moscow-backed Abkhazia has registered the first case of the novel coronavirus in the region. Abkhazia’s chief sanitation officer Lyudmila Skorik noted that the infected patient has arrived in Gagra, Georgia’s westernmost town, after having returned from a trip to Moscow.

After testing positive for coronavirus, the patient was delivered to Gudauta hospital, where s/he now undergoes treatment. Contract tracing is now carried out to track the spread of the disease, noted Abkhazia’s health officer.

Earlier, on March 30, ethnic Georgian resident of Abkhaz-controlled Gali district, who arrived to the region from Moscow via Sochi Airport, tested positive for COVID-19 in Georgian-controlled Zugdidi’s Hospital. 

18:15 GMT+4 – Georgia Reports Third Coronavirus Death; 6 More Patients Recover

Third person diagnosed with COVID-19 infection has died today, Tengiz Tsertsvadze, Head of Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases has told reporters. An 86-year-old woman had been undergoing treatment for two weeks in the said hospital. According to Tsertsvadze, the patient had underlying health conditions – a chronic neurological disease- and had developed double pneumonia, and severe sepsis, further aggravating her medical state. “Her health condition was not compatible with life,” noted Georgia’s chief COVID-19 physician.

Meanwhile, according to the government-run website StopCov.ge, seven more patients have recovered, bringing the total of recoveries to 45.

17:00 GMT+4 – Sokhumi Tightens Border Restrictions Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

Psou crossing point, Georgia’s westernmost Sokhumi-controlled border checkpoint, connecting the region to the Russian Federation, will remain closed until April 20, according to a decree signed by acting Abkhaz leader Valery Bganba on April 7.

Travel restrictions apply to “all foreign nationals and stateless people” exempting only diplomatic corps (representatives of a handful of countries that recognize Abkhazia’s independence from Georgia, including Russia – Civil.Ge’s note), military personnel of the Border Directorate of Russian FSB deployed in Abkhazia, servicemen of Russian military bases, and fright truck drivers.

Earlier Sokhumi has imposed a travel ban barring foreign nationals from entering the occupied region. The ban then excluded citizens of the Russian Federation.

16:30 GMT+4 – Tskhinvali KGB ‘Wary’ of Georgia’s Offer to Provide Humanitarian Assistance to Tackle Pandemic

KGB of Moscow-backed Tskhinvali has expressed “concerns” over Georgian authorities’ pledge to provide assistance to citizens residing in the occupied regions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Georgia’s expressed will to deliver humanitarian aid is aimed at securing an emergency package worth EUR 1 billion from the EBRD and other international organizations such as UNDP, and USAID, KGB has asserted.

Kremlin-backed region’s authorities noted that, at the time of the outbreak, “the main external security threat” was stemming from Georgia proper. “In the light of these developments,” KGB decided to close Odzisi-Mosabruni [Razdakhan] crossing point which has been temporarily open since March 2 to allow residents, left in Georgia proper after the closure of all functioning crossing points, return to the region. All other crossing point have been shut down by Tskhinvali authorities since February 27 in an effort to “stop the spread of the virus.”

Earlier, on March 2, Tskhinvali banned the entry of foreign nationals hailing from over 60 states to the region in the period between March 16 to April 15 due the coronavirus outbreak. The ban, however, excluded the nationals of the Russian Federation. On April 2, Tskhinvali announced the closure of Roki crossing point that connects the occupied region with the Russian federation “until further notice.”

The Georgian government has numerously pledged to provide testing and treatment for Georgian citizens residing in the occupied regions. Sokhumi authorities rebuffed Tbilisi’s offer to lend a helping hand, commenting that “Abkhazia issued no requests [to Georgia proper], therefore they can keep their political speculations for themselves.” Tskhinvali , similarly, turned down Tbilisi’s proposal for assistance claiming that “Georgian authorities were trying to do political PR for themselves.”

16:10 GMT+4 – Tskhinvali Announces Paid Non-Working Period Until April 30 Due to Coronavirus Concerns

Anatoly Bibilov, Moscow-Backed leader of occupied Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, has declared a paid non-working period from April 8 to April 20 in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19, “RES”, a local news agency has reported. As stated in Bibilov’s decree, all employees, except for those providing essential and emergency services – including pharmacies, grocery stores, banks and others – will enjoy two-week paid holidays throughout the occupied region.

16:01 GMT+4 – Georgian PM, EU Neighbourhood Commissioner Hold Video Talk

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia held video talk with Olivér Várhelyi, the European Union Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement. 

“Spoke to Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Gakharia to confirm that the EU continues stand by partners in fight against the coronavirus outbreak, as part of our global response to the pandemic,” Olivér Várhelyi wrote on Twitter.

On his part, PM Gakharia thanked the Commissioner for the EU’s assistance to Georgia in the fight against COVID-19. According to the Georgian Prime Minister’s press office, the parties discussed the importance of supporting small and medium enterprises in the country, as well as providing humanitarian assistance to people living in Georgia’s Russian-occupied regions.

Georgian Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Finance, Davit Zalkaliani and Ivane Machavariani, respectively, as well as Deputy Director-General for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Katarina Mathernova and EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell attended the video talk. 

14:00 GMT+4 – Altar Boy of Georgian Orthodox Church Diagnosed with Coronavirus

An altar server of the Georgian Orthodox Church, who serves at one of the churches in northeastern Tbilisi, and his two family members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus today, local media outlets have reported. It is unclear where the infected churchman had contracted the disease. According to his parish members, the altar server did attend church services on Sunday for a short time, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.  

13:30 GMT+4 – 167 People Fined for Defying State of Emergency Rules

Georgian Interior Ministry have revealed 167 new cases of disobeying state of emergency regulations within the last 24 hours. In particular, police have fined 112 citizens for defying the nationwide curfew between 21:00-06:00; 28 citizens – for public gathering and violating 2-meter distance; 27 citizens – for transporting passengers and violating state-imposed restrictions on driving.

13:00 GMT+4 –Patriarch Does Not Attend Annunciation Church Service In Holy Trinity Cathedral

Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, Head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, has not attended the Annunciation service held in the Holy Trinity cathedral today. The service has instead been conducted by Metropolitan Shio Mujiri, Patriarch’s locum tenens.

As stated by Tsisana Shartava, Patriarch’s personal physician, Ilia II’s medical health condition remains stable and he has only experienced changes of arterial blood pressure. “Due to blood pressure fluctuations, we [physicians] asked him [not to attend the Annunciation service] in order to keep him in good health for upcoming [Easter] holidays,” Shartava said in a phone conversation with Formula TV, a Georgian media outlet.

The Patriarch and his locum tenens were absent from the church services conducted on Sunday, April 6.

12:10 GMT+4 – Tbilisi Bazaars Closed to Curb Spread of Coronavirus

All agricultural open-air markets in Tbilisi have been shut down in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. “Within the framework of preventive measures against the disease, and in accordance with a recommendation by the Inter-Agency Coordination Council, all agricultural markets in Tbilisi are now closed,” Tbilisi City Hall has stated.

10:00 GMT+4 – Seven New Cases Confirmed, Total Rises to 195

Seven more patients have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a government-run website stopcov.ge has reported. To date, a total of 195 cases have been registered in Georgia. 

Monday, April 6

20:00 GMT+4 – EBRD Pledges Financial Support to Georgia to Mitigate Coronavirus Fallout

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a London-based international financial institution, has announced about stepping up cooperation with Georgia as the country continues to tackle negative economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The EBRD has allocated funds worth EUR 1 billion through the emergency Solidarity Package to assist its clients across 38 economies, including in Georgia.

In a phone call with EBRD officials, Georgia’s Finance Minister Ivane Machavariani stated that “the assistance provided by the Bank will help to ensure economic stability during the global challenges caused by the COVID-19.” The Minister expressed hope that, with the help and efforts of international partners, Georgian economy would be able to weather the storm “with as little loss as possible.”

The EBRD support will be channeled into various domains such as emergency liquidity, working capital and trade finance. Importantly, it will assist Georgian commercial banks to provide access to funds for the private sector, especially for small and medium sized enterprises (SME), according to the statement released by the EBRD. The Bank also works on designing a new framework to support all municipalities in Georgia with improved access to infrastructure, upgrade the electricity grid and promote renewable energy generation sector.

The EBRD vowed to continue playing an important role in mediating private and public sector dialogue through the Investors Council, and assessing “the real and immediate needs” of business in Georgia.

18:45 GMT+4 – Three More Patients Recover, Total of Recoveries Hits 39

Three new patients have now recovered from the coronavirus disease, a government-run website stopcov.ge has reported. The total number of recovered individuals now stands at 39. 

17:45 GMT+4 – Nine More Central Bank Employees Diagnosed with Coronavirus

Nine Employees of the National Bank of Georgia have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total of infected employees to 16. According to the Central Bank, newly infected employees have contracted the disease from the cluster of seven other employees diagnosed with coronavirus last week. All members of the staff who had come into contact with the infected employees were quarantined, and further epidemiological research and contract tracing are underway, the NBG said.

“National Bank of Georgia, as the principal financial institution, plays a central role in ensuring sound functioning of the financial sector and providing money supply for the economy under any circumstances,” reads the statement released by the NBG today. The Central Bank pledged to carry out its functions uninterrupted despite coronavirus concerns.  

15:40 GMT+4 – Top Health Official Entreats Georgian Orthodox Church Parishioners to Pray at Home

Paata Imnadze, Deputy Head of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC), has called on parishioners of the Georgian Orthodox Church “to pray at home” and refrain from visiting church houses in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. “Let us protect our mother church, protect our senior clerics, by not visiting churches and praying at home. Churches cannot close, clergymen will still pray [in churches] for us,” noted Imnadze in his address to Orthodox parishioners.

15:30 GMT+4 – Gov’t Launches “Aggressive Testing” of Target Groups

Health officials have started aggressive testing of target groups, such as frontline medical personnel, Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze has stated. According to the Minister, health officials are intending to gradually scale up testing. “We are not expecting sharp rise of confirmed cases in the aftermath of aggressive testing,” Tikaradze noted.

15:10 GMT+4 – Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Region Shuts Down Senaki, Zugdidi Bazaars

Agrarian open-air markets have been closed down in Senaki and Zugdidi municipalities of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region in western Georgia, to halt further spread of COVID-19. 

The region’s state representative Alexandre Motserelia announced today that the markets failed to comply with the regulations and have been therefore temporarily closed.

According to local media, Tsnori, Kabali, Telavi and Gurjaani agrarian markets in Katheti region, eastern Georgia are also closing down. Two days ago, bazaars were closed in Shida Kartli and Imereti regions as well. 

12:40 GMT+4 – 286 People Fined for Defying State of Emergency Rules

Georgian Interior Ministry have revealed 286 new cases of disobeying state of emergency regulations within the last 24 hours. In particular, police have fined 136 citizens for defying the nationwide curfew between 21:00-06:00; 82 citizens – for public gathering; nine citizens – for violating rules of quarantine and self-isolation; 59 citizens – for transporting passengers and violating state-imposed restrictions on driving.

12:00 GMT+4 – 14 New Cases Increase Total Confirmed to 188

According to the government-run website StopCov.ge, 14 more patients have tested positive for COVID-19 in Georgia, increasing its total confirmed cases to 188. With 36 recoveries and two deaths, the number of active novel coronavirus cases in the country stand at 150. 

Sunday, April 5

19:45 GMT+4 – Four More Cases Take Total Confirmed to 174

Government-run website StopCov.ge has reported that four more patients tested positive for the novel coronavirus, taking Georgia’s total confirmed cases to 174. With 36 recoveries and two deaths, the number of active novel coronavirus cases in the country stand at 136. 

13:24 GMT+4 – Police Fine 238 People for Defying State of Emergency Rules

Law enforcement officers have revealed 238 new cases of disobeying state of emergency regulations within the last 24 hours in Georgia. In particular, police have fined 113 citizens for defying the nationwide curfew between 21:00-06:00; 21 citizens – for public gathering; one person and one legal entity – for violating restrictions in the sphere of business activities; 12 citizens – for violating rules of quarantine and self-isolation; 90 citizens – for transporting passengers and violating state-imposed restrictions on driving.

11:40 GMT+4 – Georgia Reports Second Coronavirus Death

Georgia has confirmed its second coronavirus death. The patient, an 81-year-old woman died at the First University Clinic in Tbilisi. Levan Ratiani, Director of the Clinic said acute double pneumonia and consequent respiratory failure and septic shock led to the patient’s death. The patient, transferred to First University Clinic from Tbilisi Sea Hospital on April 3, had serious preexisting medical conditions, including serious cardiovascular condition, noted Ratiani.

11:00 GMT+4 – Total Confirmed Cases Increase to 170

According to the state-run StopCov.ge website Georgia’s total confirmed cases of COVID-19 have increased to 170. 

Saturday, April 4

22:30 GMT+4 – Three New Cases Takes Confirmed Total to 162; Five More Recovered, Bringing Total Recoveries to 36

Government-run StopCov.ge website reports that three more patients tested positive for coronavirus, bringing Georgia’s total confirmed cases to 162. Five more patients have recovered, bringing the country’s total recoveries to 36. 

20:46 GMT+4 – Austria Evacuates Five Georgian Nationals from Nigeria

Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani thanked Austrian authorities for evacuating five Georgian nationals from Abuja, Nigeria. “We can only get through the crisis if we act in a spirit of partnership and solidarity,” tweeted FM Zalkaliani. 

20:30 GMT+4 – Two New Cases Increase Total to 159

Two new cases of COVID-19 have been registered in Georgia, bringing the total to 159, according to the state-run website stopcov.ge.

19:30 GMT+4 – Three Patients Recover; Total Recoveries Hit 31

A government-run website StopCov.ge has reported that three more patient recovered, bringing the number of Georgia’s total recoveries to 31. 

16:30 GMT+4 – Govt Will not Attend Easter Liturgy 

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia announced today that “as an ordinary Christian,” he will follow the Easter Liturgy on TV from home. “This is my civic responsibility as an individual citizen, as well as the head of the government,” noted Gakharia and called on fellow Orthodox Christian believers in the country to follow his example. 

Earlier, other members of Gakharia’s cabinet also said they will not attend Easter Vigil on April 19 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Ministers of Infrastructure, Healthcare and Economy, Maia Tskitishvili, Ekaterine Tikaradze and Natia Turnava, respectively, have also stated that they will skip church on Easter. Instead, the ministers said they will watch the Vigil ceremony on TV at home.

Georgian Government announced nationwide partial curfew (21:00-06:00) effective from March 31 until April 21, the last day of state of emergency. The decision prompted discussions whether holding dusk-to-dawn Easter Vigil on April 18-19 by the Georgian Orthodox Church, the country’s most revered institution, violate the emergency laws.

“The requirements envisaged by curfew are clear – movement between 21:00 and 06:00 is banned. Besides, gathering of more than three people is prohibited. Therefore, combining these two requirements, mass gatherings in Church or in any other places for that matter, will obviously violate the rules of the curfew,” stated Vice Prime Minister Tskhitishvili.

16:00 GMT+4 – Georgian Confirms 157th case; 

The state-run website stopcov.ge reports that Georgia has confirmed yet another case of the novel coronavirus, increasing the total confirmed cases to 157.

15:30 GMT+4 – Shida Kartli, Imereti Regions Shut Down Bazaars

In a bid to halt further spread of COVID-19, regional authorities in Shida Kartli announced today to close down six agricultural open-air markets in the region until further notice. The bazaars have been shut down since the morning in western Georgia’s Imereti region too.

14:35 GMT+4 – 421 People Fined for Defying State of Emergency Rules

Georgian Interior Ministry have revealed 421 new cases of disobeying state of emergency regulations within the last 24 hours. In particular, police have fined 180 citizens for defying the nationwide curfew between 21:00-06:00; 72 citizens – for public gathering; one person – for violating restrictions in the sphere of business activities; five citizens – for violating rules of quarantine and self-isolation; 163 citizens – for transporting passengers and violating state-imposed restrictions on driving.

12:40 GMT+4 – Georgia Reports First Coronavirus Death

On the 39th day since Georgia recorded its first novel coronavirus case, the country has confirmed the first coronavirus death. The patient, a 79-year-old woman, coming from Marneuli-Bolnisi cluster of patients, died at the First University Clinic in Tbilisi. Levan Ratiani, Director of the Clinic said the patient had serious underlying medical conditions, including stage four heart failure, as well as cachexia.  

10:05 GMT +4 – Georgian Confirms 156th case; 

According to the state-run website stopcov.ge, Georgia has confirmed one new case of COVID-19, increasing the total confirmed cases to 156.

Friday, April 3

22:45 GMT+4 – 28th Patient Recovers

A government-run website StopCov.ge has reported that one more patient recovered, bringing the number of Georgia’s total recoveries to 28. 

22:20 GMT +4 – Georgia Reports Seven New Cases, Total Hits 155

Seven new cases of the novel coronavirus have been registered in Georgia, bringing the total to 155, a state-run website stopcov.ge has reported.

15:30 GMT +4 – 491 People Fined for Defying State of Emergency Rules

Georgian Interior Ministry have revealed 491 new cases of disobeying state of emergency regulations within the last 24 hours. In particular, police have fined 189 citizens for defying the nationwide curfew between 21:00-06:00; 19 citizens – for public gathering; one legal entity – for violating restrictions in the sphere of business activities; two citizens – for violating rules of quarantine and self-isolation; 280 citizens – for transporting passengers and violating state-imposed restrictions on driving.

According to the state of emergency regulations, natural or legal persons failing to observe the conditions of the state of emergency are to face criminal responsibility. For breaching the law, the decree sets a GEL 3,000 fine for individuals and GEL 15,000 for legal entities. Repeat offenders may face up to 3 years of prison sentence.

10:00 GMT +4 – Total Confirmed Cases Rise to 148; Recoveries Total 27

Government-run website StopCov.ge reports that 14 new cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in the country, bringing total cases to 148. One more patient recovers, bringing the number of recoveries to 27. 

Thursday, April 2

22:05 GMT+4 – Georgia Reports Three New Cases, Total Hits 134

Three new cases of the novel coronavirus have been registered in Georgia, bringing the total to 134, a state-run website stopcov.ge has reported.

19:20 GMT+4 – One New Case Recorded, Total Rises to 131

One more patient has tested positive for COVID-19 in Georgia, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 131, according to the state-run website StopCov.ge.

15:56 GMT+4 – Police Fine 706 People for Defying State of Emergency Rules

Law enforcement officers have revealed 706 new cases of disobeying state of emergency regulations within the last 24 hours in Georgia. In particular, police have fined 204 citizens for defying the nationwide curfew between 21:00-06:00; 75 citizens – for public gathering; one person and one legal entity – for violating restrictions in the sphere of business activities; ten citizens – for violating rules of quarantine and self-isolation; 415 citizens – for transporting passengers and violating state-imposed restrictions on driving.

13:30 GMT+4 – Georgia Considers Treating Mild Coronavirus Patients at Home

COVID-19 patients showing mild or no symptoms will treated at home and may only be hospitalized if their medical condition aggravates, Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze has stated at a daily briefing held to update on the coronavirus pandemic in Georgia. “Up to 80 % of cases are from mild to moderate,” Tikaradze noted, adding that home physicians and general practitioners are being trained to provide medical advice via telephone consultations (112 – emergency number in Georgia). The measure is aimed at averting hospital overload in case of a flux of new patients.

Health Minister commented on the more rapid rise of coronavirus cases, stating that “there is no need to sound the alarm right now in the country,” as the Ministry is putting together a strategy to manage increased flow of new patients. The Minister predicted that the outbreak may peak in mid-April, stressing that further spread could be contained by means of “effective management” of the disease by the government and society alike.

13:00 GMT+4 – Gov’t Expands List of Authorized Business Activities

The Georgian government has amended a decree issued on March 23 adding types of economic activities authorized under the state of emergency regulations which are effective until April 21. Oil and gas production companies, as well as businesses adopting remote work model will now be permitted to resume operations. “In case of critical need”, reads the decree, no more than five employees are allowed to work from office. Home delivery service of food and medication/medical supplies is also permitted.

Restriction of home delivery service (of other consumer goods) has annoyed businesses and a part of society. As stated by Economy Minister Natia Turnava at today’s briefing of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council on Coronavirus, delivery service businesses must “prove” their adherence to all public health and safety recommendations – “we must be certain that all employees in the warehouses wear relevant [personal protective] equipment,” she said. “We [the government] will soon provide businesses with guidelines and if they undertake all necessary measures, guaranteeing that said regulations are observed, they will be allowed to operate freely,” noted Turnava.

12:00 GMT+4 – Seven Employees of Central Bank Test Positive for Coronavirus

Seven employees of the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) have tested positive for COVID-19. According to the NBG, the infected patients might have contracted the disease from another Central Bank employee who had been diagnosed with coronavirus a week before. All seven are employees of the same department and have not come into contact with other NBG employees during past two weeks, reads the statement released by the Central Bank. 90 % of the staff are now working remotely, the NBG added.

11:00 GMT+4 – Georgian Priest in New York Diagnosed with Coronavirus

A Georgian clergyman serving in New York parish of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The news came from Bishop Saba Intskirveli, Head of GOC’s Diocese in North America. According to the Bishop, the infected priest did not hold church services last week and now undergoes treatment at home. Another Georgian priest in New York tested positive for COVID-19 on March 25.

According Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze, a total of 35 Georgian nationals have been diagnosed with coronavirus abroad. 

10:00 GMT+4 – 13 New Cases Take Total to 130, Three More Recover

According to government-run website StopCov.ge, thirteen new patients tested positive for COVID-19, bringing total to 130. Three more patients have recovered, taking total recoveries to 26.  

01:00 GMT+4 – Tskhinvali Closes Roki Crossing-Point with Russia

Anatoly Bibilov, Moscow-backed leader of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia announced about the closure of Roki crossing-point connecting the occupied region with the Russian Federation from April 2 “until further notice.” 

The move came as Russian Federation’s North Ossetia recorded the first two cases of the novel coronavirus, while the number of Russian confirmed cases totaled 2,777 as of April 1 morning. 

The residents of Tskhinvali will be allowed to return to the region, however, they are required to undertake a 14-day self-isolation period. The ban also excludes Russian military servicemen and FSB employees occupying the region. Freight transportation is also exempt from the restrictions. 

To halt the spread of COVID-19, Tskhinvali leadership announced further set of restrictive measures , including closing down beauty and spa salons, hotels and resorts.   

Earlier, Tskhinvali banned the entry of all foreign citizens in the region in the period between March 16 to April 15 amid the coronavirus outbreak. The ban, however, excluded the nationals of the Russian Federation. On March 2, Tskhinvali imposed a temporary travel ban on nationals hailing from more than 60 states. 

Prior to that, as Georgia recorded its first COVID-19 cases, the occupied region’s KGB closed all crossing points connecting the region to Georgia proper until further notice on February 27. Noteworthy, that the most frequently used Odzisi crossing point, connecting the region’s ethnic Georgian-majority Akhalgori district to Georgia proper remains closed since September 2019. 

“We will not allow the infection to penetrate into South Ossetia from Georgia,” said Dmitry Medoev, Moscow-backed “foreign minister” of Tskhinvali on April 2. 

Commenting on state of affairs in Tskhinvali, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, the Georgian State Minister overseeing occupied regions said situation in the region has become “alarming.” 

Wednesday, April 1

22:00 GMT+4 – Georgian Orthodox Church Unwilling to Suspend Religious Service Despite State of Emergency Measures

Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, a dominant religious denomination in the country, has issued a statement, affirming that “church doors could not be shut [to worshipers] and they will remain open for all comers, to receive God’s grace and invigorate themselves spiritually.”

“In light of the current circumstances” the Patriarch addressed his parish with following pieces of advice:

  • “Until the plague passes, observe relevant [public health] recommendations;
  • When in contact with other people, either in the church house or outside, keep distance between you and others;
  • During the Divine Liturgy (church service), only the clergy, church choir members and altar servers should remain inside the church house; in large cathedrals, a limited number of parishioners may also be present [inside the church house];
  • In general, parishioners are advised to stay on the premises of the church courtyard, in the open air, while attending church services;
  • In small-size church houses, church services may be conducted using a makeshift altar in the open air;
  • Parishioners, who, due to their old age or medical state constitute a high-risk group, also those wary about contracting the disease, may stay home; Parish priests will conduct church services [in their houses] and set rules of worship for those who wish it or are in an urgent need.”

20:00 GMT+4 – Additional Thermal Screening Checkpoint to be Set Up in Kvemo Bolnisi

Georgian Interior Ministry reported that additional checkpoint will be set up at the entrance of Kvemo Bolnisi “to ensure the enforcement of significantly tough measures” during the state of emergency. 

Similar checkpoints have been set up in major cities Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Poti, Rustavi, Zugdidi, Gori, Telavi and Akhaltsikhe to check whether drivers are complying with state-of-emergency regulations, measure passengers’ temperature and provide first aid for those in need.

19:47 GMT+4 –  Two New Cases Recorded, Total Rises to 117

According to the government-run website stopcov.ge, two new cases of coronavirus have been registered in Georgia. The national total now stands at 117. 

13:50 GMT+4 – 23rd Patient Recovers

Government-run website StopCov.ge reports that 23rd Georgian patient has now recovered from the novel coronavirus.

„This was the most severely ill patient that we’ve been treating; she has now recovered and will be discharged today,” noted Levan Ratiani, Director of First University Clinic in Tbilisi. According to Ratiani, the said patient, a woman, has had serious underlying medical conditions, including hypertension (high-blood pressure), diabetes and had previously suffered from heart failure. When hospitalized on March 15, the patient was diagnosed with double pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, triggered by COVID-19 infection. “I consider her recovery as a triumph of Georgian healthcare system,” remarked Ratiani.  

13:30 GMT+4 – Testing Criteria for Coronavirus Expanded, Focusing on High-Risk Groups

The Ministry of Health has expanded a list of testing criteria for the novel coronavirus, which will now include symptomatic patients (with high fever), and high-risk groups such as frontline medical personnel. The decision has been voiced by Tamar Gabunia, Deputy Health Minister, at a government task force briefing to update on the coronavirus outbreak in Georgia. Prior to the change, the COVID-19 testing algorithm only included suspected patients with travel history of coronavirus-affected countries, and people who had come into contact with patients already diagnosed with the disease. The move comes in the wake of at least two confirmed cases of internal COVID-19 transmission.

According to Gabunia, the Ministry has already launched setting-up and equipping of fever clinics – forty-odd ambulatory care facilities providing primary care for patients showing some symptoms of COVID-19. Fever clinics will be open in most of Georgian municipalities, carrying out rapid tests for prompt diagnosis. These facilities, the Deputy Minister noted, would assume the role of intermediary between general hospitals and clinics specially designated for coronavirus treatment (so called COVID centers).

As for testing capacity, Gabunia stated that there were about 4,000 kits for antibody blood test available for Georgia’s healthcare system, in addition to 2,000 antigen test kits for diagnostics performed using a PCR analyzer. “We will soon get another 2,000 rapid test kits that function without a lab analyzer [point-of-care testing],” said Gabunia.

12:50 GMT+4 – Govt Allocates GEL 2 Bln to Cushion Blow to Economy

The Government of Georgia has allocated GEL 2 billion (USD 604 mln) from the budget to mitigate negative impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia has announced at the government task force meeting today that the allocated funds will be addressed to keep firms in business and people in jobs.

“We are aware that each citizen has seen economic harm due to the measures the Government taken in a bid to protect their health,” Gakharia said with reference to the restrictive measures imposed within the framework of nationwide state of emergency. 

As stated by Gakharia, the government will cover utility fees for the households consuming less than 200 cubic meter of gas and 200 kilowatts of electricity per month in March, April and May. The Prime Minister further noted that there will be additional measures announced to help the vulnerable families affected by the pandemic.

11:30 GMT+4 – Interior Ministry Says First Night of COVID-19 Curfew Was ‘Quiet’

Georgian Interior Ministry reported that the first night of the curfew between 21:00-06:00 was “quiet,” as Georgian citizens had been informed about the restrictive measures imposed within the nationwide state of emergency.

According to the head of the Patrol Police Department, Vazha Siradze, few petty violations had been recorded during the curfew, and police reacted with “quick response.”

10:40 GMT+4 – Five New Cases Take Total to 115, Number of Recoveries Hits 22

According to the state-run website StopCov.ge updates, five more people have tested positive for COVID-19, increasing the total number of cases to 115, while one new recovery has brought the number of recovered patients to 22.

Tuesday, March 31

21:00 GMT+4 – Georgia Observes the First Night of COVID-19 Curfew

More than 3,7 million Georgians started observing the first night of COVID-19 curfew at 21:00. The Georgians have been asked to stay indoors for 9-hours between 21:00-06:00 until April 21. The new set of restrictive measures including partial curfew was announced by Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on March 30 in a bid to halt the coronavirus spread. The move came as Georgia reportedly recorded the first internal transmissions of the COVID-19 virus. As of March 31, 21:00, Georgian authorities confirmed 110 coronavirus cases, of which 21 patients have already fully recovered. 

15:30 GMT+4 – Gov’t Unveils List of Business Activities Authorized Under State of Emergency

The Georgian government has published a list of economic activities that are allowed to carry on under strict lockdown measures amid the coronavirus pandemic. All other non-essential business activities will be suspended until April 21.

Following businesses will be permitted to operate:

  • medical/healthcare facilities;
  • businesses engaged in retail and distribution of consumer goods such as foodstuff, pet food, cleaning and hygiene products, agricultural chemicals and seeds, packaging products;
  • mills, bakeries, and milk processing plants;
  • companies supplying electricity, natural gas, water, gasoline, diesel, liquefied gas, as well as telecommunications service providers, postal and waste disposal services;
  • commercial banks;
  • payment systems operators;
  • ATMs, self-service payment kiosks, and point of sale (POS) terminals;
  • microfinance institutions;
  • companies providing remote (internet) banking/financial services;
  • pharmacies and companies that produce, retail or distribute medical equipment;
  • agricultural businesses (production of agricultural commodities, such as livestock and crops);
  • taxi cab companies/ride-hailing services;
  • companies providing food delivery services;
  • private security companies;
  • law firms;
  • companies providing car maintenance services;
  • newsstands.

14:30 GMT+4 – Nighttime Curfew Enacted in Occupied Gali District Since March 28

On March 28, Moscow-backed Abkhaz authorities imposed a curfew from 00:00 to 06:00 [01:00 to 07:00 GMT+4, Tbilisi time – Civil.ge’s note] in occupied Gali district in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, local media outlets reported. According to the source, the measure is aimed at barring local residents from crossing the dividing line in order to travel to Georgia proper. All residents are required to show proof of identity (residence “permits” issued by Sokhumi) to patrolling Abkhaz authorities.  

On Monday, March 30, Abkhaz authorities restricted movement between Gali and Ochamchire Districts. The move came as a patient – having previously traveled to Moscow – had arrived in Zugdidi via Abkhaz-controlled Gali district and tested positive for COVID-19.

State of Emergency entered into force on March 28 in occupied Abkhazia, effective until April 20.

13:30 GMT+4 – Fifth Georgian National Died of Coronavirus Abroad

A Georgian citizen, a 64-year-old man residing in the U.S., has died of COVID-19 at a New York hospital, Paata Imnadze, Deputy Head of National Center for Disease Control and Public Health has stated at a briefing of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council. According to Imnadze, the patient had serious underlying medical conditions. Prior to his decease, four other coronavirus- infected Georgians have passed away in Spain.

12:48 GMT+4 – Checkpoints for Thermal Screening to be Set Up in Telavi, Akhaltsikhe

The Inter-Agency Coordination Council on Coronavirus has decided to install temperature screening stations in Telavi and Akhaltsikhe, in addition to seven other major cities (Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Poti, Rustavi, Zugdidi and Gori), Irakli Chikovani, Prime Minister’s spokesperson has announced at a daily government briefing today. Road checkpoints will be used to check whether drivers are complying with state-of-emergency regulations, measure passengers’ temperature and provide first aid for those in need.

12:38 GMT+4 – Two New Cases Recorded, Total Rises to 110

Two more patients have tested positive for COVID-19, Irakli Chikovani, Prime Minister’s spokesperson has stated at a briefing of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council, a government task force to tackle the pandemic. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 110.

11:50 GMT+4 – Police Uncovers 46 Cases of Defying State of Emergency Orders

Law enforcement officers have revealed 46 new cases of disobeying state of emergency regulations which were introduced on March 24.

The police have fined 21 citizens for partaking in a public gathering of more than ten people in public faces, which is restricted by the government’s decree. Four natural and two legal persons have been fined for violating regulations with regard to economic activities. The police have also seized and placed in quarantine 13 citizens for violating mandatory self-isolation protocol. Six minibus drivers have been fined for carrying out intercity transportation of passengers despite state-imposed restrictions.

11:00 GMT+4 – ‘Non-essential’ Financial Institutions to Shut Down Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

Financial institutions, including currency exchange services, licensed lenders, credit unions, brokerage firms, central depositaries, specialized depositaries, stock exchanges, non-state pension funds, credit bureaus, are obliged to suspend office operations and shift to remote working, the National Bank of Georgia has stated. Banks, microfinance institutions, and payment service providers are exempt from the restriction and can carry on both office and remote operations unhindered. The Central Bank has advised citizens to use online payment services when possible in an effort to better enforce physical (social) distancing measures.

10:30 GMT+4 – Five New Cases Take Total to 108, Number of Recoveries Hits 21

According to the state-run website StopCov.ge updates, five more people have tested positive for COVID-19, increasing the total number of cases to 108, while one new recovery has brought the number of recovered patients to 21.

Monday, March 30

22:00 GMT+4 – Sokhumi Restricts Movement Between Gali, Ochamchire Districts

Acting Abkhaz leader Valery Bganba has instructed the “interior ministry” to set up a police cordon at a permanent checkpoint “Kanal” in order to restrict movement between Gali and Ochamchire districts starting from 21:00 [22:00 GMT+4, Tbilisi time – Civil.ge’s note]. The move comes as a patient – having previously traveled to Moscow – has arrived in Zugdidi via Abkhaz-controlled Gali district and tested positive for COVID-19 today. The infected woman has reportedly travelled to Adler (Sochi) and Sokhumi on her way to Zugdidi.

21:59 – Three New Cases Take Total to 103, Number of Recoveries Hits 20

According to the state-run website StopCov.ge updates, three more people have tested positive for COVID-19, increasing the total number of cases to 103, and two new recoveries have brought the number of recovered patients to 20.

State Representative of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region Alexandre Motserelia told the Georgian Public Broadcaster that one of the three patients arrived from Moscow to Adler (Sochi) by plane, traveled to occupied Abkhazia’s capital town of Sokhumi, went to Saberio village of Abkhaz-controlled Gali district,  and entered Georgia proper through Tbilisi-controlled Pakhulani village, before she was delivered to Zugdidi hospital. 

18:10 GMT+4 – Two New Cases Take Total to 100

Two more patients have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Georgia, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 100, according to the state-run website StopCov.ge. 

17:00 GMT+4 – Georgia to Impose Partial Curfew 

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia announced about stepping up measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus as the country confirms internal virus transmission. The Prime Minister said the government is ‘practically’ enacting ‘nationwide quarantine’ effective from Tuesday, March 31. The new restrictions include:

  • Citizens will be required to observe curfew between 21:00 – 06:00 effective from March 31;
  • All public transportation (in/between municipalities) will be suspended;

  • The number of passengers in cars, taxis will be limited to three; 

  • Gathering of more than three people will be banned except from groceries and pharmacies (citizens need to observe 2-meter distance);

  • People above 70 are required to stay indoors; exceptions apply for shopping in the nearest groceries and visiting pharmacies and hospitals;

  • Checkpoints will be set up for thermal screenings in the largest cities of Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Poti, Rustavi, Zugdidi and Gori;

  • Every citizen is required to carry a passport/ID while going out.

16:00 GMT+4 – Moscow Temporarily Closes Crossing Point with Occupied Tskhinvali 

From March 30, Russian Federation is closing its borders to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. The ban also concerns the occupied Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, RES media outlet reported citing the press office of the FSB of Russia for North Ossetia. 

A week ago RES announced that the Moscow-backed Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia authorities will ban the entry of all foreign citizens in the region in the period between March 16 to April 15 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. However, the ban, excludes the nationals of the Russian Federation.

15:10 GMT+4 – EU Allocates EUR 140 Mln to Help Georgia, Eastern Partnership Countries Tackle Pandemic 

The European Commission has allocated funds worth up to EUR 140 million to help the Eastern Parnership (EaP) countries – Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine – meet “the most immediate needs” amid the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the European Commission has stated, it will also redirect the use of existing fiscal instruments worth EUR 700 million to help “mitigate the socio-economic impact” of the public health crisis.

“These are very difficult times not only for the EU, but for our partner countries as well. We are responding both to the immediate needs of the health systems, as well as longer term needs to the most vulnerable groups in society and small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of the economies in the six countries,” Olivér Várhelyi, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement has stated.

The Commission has also made available more than €11.3 million in small grants to civil society organizations. Owing to a micro-grant provided by the EU, a Georgian producer of medical textiles has been able to purchase 12 additional sewing machines and produced 40,000 medical gowns within a week, reads the EU factsheet.

12:53 GMT+4 – 131 People Fined for Defying State of Emergency Rules

The Georgian Interior Ministry reported that 131 people have been fined for defying state of emergency rules within the last 24 hours in Georgia. 104 persons were fined for public gathering; 13 persons and 6 legal entities – for violating restrictions in the sphere of business activities; 3 persons – for violating rules of quarantine and self-isolation; 5 persons – for transporting cross-town passengers on a minibus. 

11:30 GMT+4 – Seven New Cases Recorded, Total Rises to 98

According to the government-run website stopcov.ge, there are 98 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Georgia. One of the seven new patients has contracted the disease while traveling to the UK, and five others have come into contact with two already infected patients, Marina Ezugbaia, Medical Director of Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases has stated. Ezugbaia has added that medical state of six patients could be assessed as “critical,” and that there are several patients on the mend. 

Sunday, March 29

19:17 GMT+4 – One New Case Confirmed, Total Hits 91

One more patient has tested positive on the novel coronavirus in Georgia, according to the stopcov.ge, a government-run website, increasing the total confirmed cases to 91. 

15:10 GMT+4 – 125 More People Fined for Defying State of Emergency Rules

125 people have been fined for defying state of emergency rules within the last 24 hours in Georgia. According to the Georgian Interior Ministry, 96 persons were fined for public gathering; 3 legal entities and 8 persons – for violating restrictions in the sphere of business activities; 5 persons – for transporting cross-town passengers on a minibus; 13 persons – for violating rules of quarantine and self-isolation.

10:40 GMT+4 – Two More Patients Recover, Bringing Total Recoveries to 18

Medical Director of Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases, Marina Ezugbaia told journalists that two more patients made recoveries, bringing the number of total recoveries to 18. The two patients are expected to be discharged from the hospital later today, noted Ezugbaia. 

Saturday, March 28

23:00 GMT+4 – Six Ministry of Defense Employees Tested Positive for Coronavirus

Six cleaning service employees at the Civil Office of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Ministry has reported. According to the MoD, all six employees had been self-isolating before the infection was diagnosed.

“Stringent measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the virus. All members of the staff who had come into (direct or indirect) contact with the infected employees were put into quarantine in accordance with [public health] regulations. In particular, eight servicemen were transferred to Gori Military Hospital to undergo medical checkup procedures,” reads the statement released by the MoD. The Ministry has clarified that one of the six employees might have contracted the disease from his/her family member who had returned from Azerbaijan.

22:38 GMT+4 – Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Region Tightens Measures Aimed at Preventing Coronavirus Spread

State Representative of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region Alexandre Motserelia has announced about tightening measures to halt spread of the COVID-19. The preventive measures, effective from March 29, include:

  • halting all public transportation throughout the region;
  • banning all non-essential travels;
  • prohibiting travel of more than three people per car;
  • requiring all passengers in cars to wear face masks;
  • installing checkpoints across the municipalities;
  • setting up task forces composed of policemen, army and healthcare professionals;

State Representative Motserelia noted that there were risks and threats in terms of the spread of the virus that required regional authorities to step up the measures. He stressed that although currently there was a single confirmed case of COVID-19 in Zugdidi, regional capital, the authorities did not rule out a surge in the number of cases.

The State Representative also stressed the fact that the region was bordering Russian-occupied Abkhazia. “Unfortunately, according to the information available to us, situation is inauspicious [in Abkhazia]; we expect our compatriots residing in Abkhazia to [visit Georgia proper] seeking medical care. Each and every citizen will be provided with the adequate healthcare,” noted Motserelia.

Earlier today Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia visited Zugdidi, instructing the State Representative and the regional ad hoc coronavirus task force to exert stringent control over execution of restrictions imposed through emergency laws. 

Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti is home to approximately 330,000 inhabitants, encompassing Abasha, Senaki, Martvili, Chkhorontsku, Tsalenjikha, Khobi, Zugdidi, Mestia (upper Svaneti area) municipalities, as well as self-governing port city of Poti.

20:00 GMT+4 – Five New Cases Take Total to 90, Two More Recover

Five more patients have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Amiran Gamkrelidze, head of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC), has stated in a TV interview. These five persons may have contracted the virus from the already-infected patient (who tested positive yesterday), and form a single cluster of patients, Gamkrelidze has noted.

Meanwhile, Government-run website StopCov.ge reports that two more patients have recovered from the novel coronavirus, increasing the number of discharged patients to 16 

18:10 GMT+4 – NCDC Director: “Very High Probability” of Community Transmission in Georgia

There is a very high probability that Georgia has entered the stage of community transmission, Amiran Gamkrelidze, head of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC), has told Georgian Public Broadcaster. According to Gamkrelidze, health officials could not directly identify sources of infection of three patients (out of 85 cases in total), and in two cases, it is “almost impossible” to track the source.   

NCDC director noted that, as Easter approaches, many would be tempted to gather for public celebrations. However, he warned, people should fully observe physical (social) distancing practices and stay home when possible, as the country is “on the verge of a large-scale epidemic.” “Social distancing is our mightiest weapon against the disease,” stressed Gamkrelidze.

16:48 GMT+4 – Sokhumi Closes Psou Crossing Point, Bars Foreign Nationals from Entering Occupied Abkhazia

Moscow-backed Abkhaz authorities have closed Psou crossing point, Georgia’s westernmost Sokhumi-controlled border checkpoint, connecting the region to Russia, and barred “foreign nationals and stateless people” from entering Abkhazia in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. According to local media outlet ApsnyPress, Valery Bganba, acting leader of Abkhazia, has signed a decree restricting entry for all foreign citizens except for employees of diplomatic institutions, military personnel of the Border Directorate of Russian FSB deployed in Abkhazia, servicemen of Russian military bases, and servicemen on business trips. Freight transport is also exempt from the ban. 

On February 25, Bganba extended a travel ban for foreign nationals due to the coronavirus outbreak in China. The ban then excluded citizens of the Russian Federation.

15:40 GMT+4 – Rukhi General Hospital to Treat Coronavirus-Infected Patients from Occupied Abkhazia 

Rukhi University Clinic, a new general-purpose hospital, will now provide medical care for coronavirus-infected patients, along with Zugdidi Hospital for Infectious Diseases, Government’s administration has reported today. The 100-bed hospital, located in a few kilometers from the dividing line with occupied Abkhazia, will be equipped and fully-functional in several days’ time, Health Minister has stated.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, together with Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze and State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, has paid a visit to the Rukhi hospital today. “We will do our utmost to protect health of our citizens on both sides of the dividing line,” the Prime Minister said. According to Minister Tsikhelashvili, Rukhi Clinic will be able to diagnose infected patients and provide them with due treatment. “The hospital will receive patients from Abkhazia region as well,” added Tsikhelashvili.

12:54 GMT+4 – U.S. to Provide USD 1.1 Mln Aid to Georgia to Tackle Coronavirus 

The United States will provide a financial aid worth USD 1.1 million to Georgia to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Funds have been earmarked to “prepare laboratory systems, activate case-finding and event-based surveillance, support technical experts for response and preparedness, bolster risk communication, and more,” the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi has written on its Facebook account today. 

12:54 GMT+4 – Seven People Fined for Defying State of Emergency Rules

Georgian Interior Ministry has fined seven persons with GEL 3,000 for breaching a 14-day self-isolation period in Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Kvemo Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti and Adjara regions. All of them have been transferred to quarantine zones. The seventh individual was fined in Kakheti region for defying the ban on intercity transportation.

11:04 GMT+4 – Two More Patients Test Positive, Number of Cases Rises to 85

Two more patients have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the updated case count on StopCov.ge, a government website.

00:00 GMT+4 – State of Emergency Enters into Force in Occupied Abkhazia

Due to coronavirus concerns, Valery Bganba, acting leader of Moscow-backed Abkhazia has declared a state of emergency effective from March 28 to April 20 throughout the whole territory of Abkhazia. According to Apsny Press, a local media outlet, the Abkhaz “parliament” unanimously approved Bganba’s decision.

Friday, March 27

23:04 GMT+4 – Two New Cases Confirmed, Total Hits 83

Two more patients have tested positive on the novel coronavirus in Georgia, according to the stopcov.ge, a government-run website, increasing the total confirmed cases to 83.

20:00 GMT+4 – 14th Patient Recovers

Government-run website StopCov.ge reports that 14th Georgian patient recovered from the novel coronavirus. 

17:00 GMT+4 – Think Tank Says Gov’t Should Step up Efforts to Shield Economy from Coronavirus Fallout

The International School of Economics (ISET), a Tbilisi-based economic policy think-tank, has published an assessment of Georgian government’s handling of the coronavirus-triggered downturn in the economy. Given the rapidly changing scope of the crisis, the government should make effective use of fiscal stimulus, and, if possible, monetary policy to help soften the economic blow delivered by the pandemic, ISET reckons.

According to ISET, under worst scenario, Georgia’s real GDP growth may slow down to 0,82 % (assuming a 5 % baseline) in 2020. Weakened national currency will continue to plague the consumer market, as tourist inflows, remittances, and export – essential source of foreign currency inflow for Georgia – are all expected to plummet in the foreseeable future. “On the other hand, due to restrictions on air travel, the outflow of currency from Georgia to foreign countries will be reduced, which will have a positive effect on the exchange rate. Overall, overshooting of inflation target (annual inflation stood at 6,4% in January-February, higher than the threshold of just 3%) means that the Central Bank will be reluctant to cut its benchmark rate in a bid to “avoid provoking further currency depreciation and stoking inflationary expectation even higher.”

A major weakness of Georgian economy lies in its lack of a broad social safety net infrastructure, which could support afflicted groups during downturns, the research claims. ISET points out sizable informal sector, whose workforce is hard to reach for the government to aid “via conventional means.”

ISET predicts that measures taken by the government and banks will not be able to “directly reach a sizable group of the population affected by the shock” – those unemployed due to COVID-19, employed in the informal sector/gig economy, people with low income, and  households that are dependent on remittances transfers. The think tank stressed the importance of promptly reaching out to these groups “in the interest of broader development agenda.” In case of possible extension of quarantine measures, ISET warns, large part of the population will no longer be able earn their own living in the coming months.

13:30 GMT+4 – Georgia Cancels Contract with Chinese Company That Supplied Faulty Rapid Test Kits to Spain

Georgian government has terminated a supply contract with Shenzhen Bioeasy Biotechnology, a Chinese biotech company that has reportedly delivered “unreliable” COVID-19 test kits to Spain. On March 23, Georgian Health Ministry signed a state procurement contract worth USD 1,182,500 with the Chinese company to purchase 200,000 rapid test kits for diagnosing novel coronavirus. First batch of the kits (3,000 pieces) was expected to arrive from China by the end of this week.

After test kits had been found to have a low rate of diagnostic accuracy, the company reported to us and the contract was scrapped over safety concerns, Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze stated at a press briefing of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council, a government task force. “Either way, delivered tests are subject to quality control in Georgia in order to confirm their accuracy and compliance to health and safety standards,” noted the Minister. Tikaradze added that Ministry was already looking for an alternative supplier. “Our citizens will not be put at risk by imprecise diagnosis,” she said.

11:09 GMT+4 – Two New Cases Take Total to 81, Two More Recover

Two more patients have tested positive on the novel coronavirus in Georgia, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 81, according to the state-run website StopCov.ge. Two more patients have also recovered from COVID-19 increasing the number of discharged patients to 13. 

Thursday, March 26

22:45 GMT+4 – 11th Patient Recovers

The state-run website StopCov.ge reports that Georgia’s 11th patient recovered. 

22:35 GMT+4 – UNM-affiliated Organization Fined with GEL 15,000 for Defying State of Emergency Rules

Georgian Interior Ministry has fined “New Leaders Initiative” with GEL 15,000 for violating the state of emergency, which prohibits gathering of more than ten people in public places to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

According to the Interior Ministry, the foregoing organization has been distributing personal protective equipment (masks, gloves and etc.) – donated by former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s library – earlier today in Zugdidi, western Georgia, which prompted gathering of more than 100 people in public place.

In a statement released by the organization, “New Leaders Initiative” claimed their aim was to provide people with protective gear, reportedly in shortfall, against coronavirus. Christina Pushaw, who chairs the organization, wrote on Facebook that they were “just trying to help people and asked for police assistance to control the crowd.”

She also noted that volunteers and authorities, despite their efforts, could not enforce physical (social) distancing and subsequently the organizers had to cease distributing. “From Day 1, Mikheil Saakashvili has invited relevant authorities to bring [PPE] supplies from his library in Tbilisi [to Zugdidi] and to distribute themselves to people in need! I repeat this invitation,” Pushaw stated.

21:30 GMT+4 – Georgia Ranks Among Least Coronavirus-affected Countries in Europe

As of March 26, Georgian health officials have diagnosed 79 cases of the novel coronavirus across the country. With a relatively low rate of infections under its belt, Georgia ranks fifth among the least coronavirus-effected countries in Europe, just after the Holy See (a single case recorded), Monaco (31), Liechtenstein (51), and Montenegro (53).

(Source: Situation Update brief by European Center for Disease Prevention and Control – Civil.Ge’s note)

16:15 GMT+4 – Two More Patients Test Positive on Coronavirus, Number of Cases Rises to 79

Two more cases of the novel coronavirus have been recorded in Georgia, bringing the total to 79, Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze has stated. One of the two infected patients is a pregnant woman, close relative to another woman from Marneuli cluster of patients. 

10:41 GMT+4 – Two New Cases Confirmed, Total Hits 77

Two more patients have tested positive on the novel coronavirus, according to the updated case count on stopcov.ge, a government-run website.

Wednesday, March 25

20:47 GMT+4 – Two New Cases Take Total to 75

According to the government-run website stopcov.ge, two more patients have tested positive on the novel coronavirus in Georgia, taking the total number of cases to 75.

19:30 GMT+4 – First Batch of Rapid Test Kits Arrived from China

1,000 rapid COVID-19 test kits have arrived from China today, Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze has told reporters while visiting quarantined Marneuli municipality. Rapid test kits will enable health professionals to diagnose the novel coronavirus in less than an hour and a half, Tikaradze has noted, down from six hours needed for PCR methodology.

According to the Health Minister, Georgia has signed a contract to purchase up to 200,000 test kits in total, which will be delivered gradually, 3,000 kits arriving by the end of this week. Rapid tests will be first used to carry out screening of high-risk areas like Marneuli and Bolnisi currently under strict lockdown, Tikaradze has added.

16:30 GMT+4 – Central Bank Sells USD 40 Mln to Help Steady Lari

The National Bank of Georgia (NBG) has sold USD 40 million at the foreign exchange (FX) auction today in an bid to shore up the weakened national currency. The average weighted bid rate amounted 3.4563, the NBG said. The NBG also stepped in on March 19 to carry out currency intervention worth USD 40 million to ease the pressure on the exchange rate of Lari amid coronavirus fallout. Currently, Georgia’s national currency is trading at GEL 3,50 per U.S. dollar on Bloomberg’s platform.

12:45 GMT+4 – Gov’t: GEL 6 Mln Raised for Coronavirus Relief Fund by Private Sector

Over GEL 6 mln (USD 1,7 mln) has been raised for StopCov, a coronavirus relief fund, after its launching two days ago, Irakli Chikovani, Prime Minister’s spokesperson has stated at a daily press briefing today. The StopCov Fund has been established by the government asking for a helping hand from the private sector in order to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. Collected funds will be allocated to prevent further spread of the infection.

12:30 GMT+4 – Georgian Orthodox Church Calls on Sick Parishioners to Stay Home, Permits Holding Open-Air Services

The Georgia Orthodox Church (GOC), a dominant religious denomination in Georgia, has issued a statement in response to public concerns over Church’s decision not to change the shared spoon Communion practice and not to suspend church services in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The GOC deplored “certain media outlets’s attempt to scapegoat the Church” were the epidemiological situation to exacerbate. “We call on our parishioners who feel unwell to remain at home until full recovery,” reads the statement released today. The GOC maintained that congregants were obliged to stay 1.5 meters away from each other inside the church house and keep at least 2-meter distance outside of it. “In order to avoid mass gatherings, priests are allowed to conduct church services and the rite of Holy Unction on different days of the Holy Week (before Easter Day),” stated the GOC. It also permitted holding open-air church services when possible.

“Those who object to a millennia-old practice of the Eucharist (Holy Communion), are devoid of relevant knowledge and belief in the spiritual importance of the sacrament. [The act of] receiving Communion from the same chalice is a confirmation of unity and mutual love [between parishioners], and those who reject it, reject the Savior himself,” said the Church. The GOC reiterated that it could not deny church service to a parishioner in a good health for the sole reason of public health concerns.

10:47 GMT+4 – Three New Cases Take Total to 73, Tenth Patient Discharged from Hospital

Three more patients have tested positive on the novel coronavirus in Georgia, taking the total number of cases to 73, Medical Director of Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases, Marina Ezugbaia told journalists at a morning news briefing today. According to Ezugbaia, the tenth patient also recovered from COVID-19 and was discharged from the hospital yesterday. 

Paata Imnadze, Deputy Director of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, stated that two of the last three patients had contracted the disease while traveling to the U.S., while one case was had been tracked to France. Imnadze noted that the average age of coronavirus-positive patients is 37, the most junior patient is 2 years old, while the most senior is a 82-year-old woman.

02:01 GMT+4 – Georgian Speaker, U.S. Congressman Hold Phone Talk

Georgian Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze held phone talk with the United States Congressman and House Georgia Caucus Co-Chair Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).

Noting that the U.S.-Georgia “friendship and bond remains as strong as ever,” Congressman Kinzinger said they spoke about Georgia and its fight against the novel coronavirus, “as well as economic challenges we will all face.” 

“We discussed efforts made against the COVID-19, public health situation and need for economic stabilization and recovery,” Speaker Talakvadze tweeted.

00:45 GMT+4 – Photos: Disinfection Efforts Against Coronavirus in Tbilisi

SUVs drive around spraying disinfectant through the streets of Tbilisi to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

Station Square, Tbilisi. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
Station Square, Tbilisi. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
Near Dinamo Arena, Tbilisi. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge

Tuesday, March 24

19:10 GMT+4 – Three New Cases Confirmed, Total Hits 70, Ninth Patient Discharged from Hospital

Three more patients have tested positive on the novel coronavirus, according to the updated case count on stopcov.ge, a government website. One of the three patients currently undergoes treatment at Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases and he/she has probably contracted the disease while traveling in the U.S., Marina Ezugbaia, Medical Director of the said hospital has stated. The other two cases plus one confirmed around five hours ago are reportedly linked with the Marneuli cluster of patients. One patient who has fully recuperated is now discharged from the hospital, noted Ezugbaia. For now, a total of nine patients have recovered from COVID-19 in Georgia. 

15:30 GMT+4 – Central Bank Steps up Currency Intervention as Lari Plummets

The National Bank of Georgia has announced it will sell USD 40 million at  the foreign exchange (FX) auction tomorrow to stem a sharp depreciation of the national currency amid coronavirus fallout. The Cenral Bank has already carried out two consecutive currency interventions worth USD 60 million from its foreign exchange reserves. As of now, Georgia’s national currency is at a historic low trading at GEL 3,48 per U.S. dollar on Bloomberg’s platform. 

13:53 GMT+4 – Wizz Air Suspends All Georgia Flights Until May 1

The Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air suspends all of its Georgia flights until May 1, 2020 in a bid to prevent further spread of the COVID-19, Kutaisi International Airport reports.

13:29 GMT+4 – One New Case Takes Total to 67

According to the government-run website stopcov.ge, one more patient has tested positive on the novel coronavirus in Georgia, taking the total number of cases to 67. As stated by Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze at a news briefing, two of the 67 infected patients are Austrian citizens, who have already been transferred to Austria by the Austrian government.

13:00 GMT+4 – Gov’t Announces Lockdown Measures, Exempts Essential Services

The government has announced a raft of new measures in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19. At a daily briefing of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council, Irakli Chikovani, Prime Minister’s spokesperson, has presented at length restrictions on businesses and public life imposed by the government’s decree on preventive measures against the novel coronavirus.

The decree bans gathering of more than ten people in public space (both indoor and outdoor) except for private residential premises. Restrictions apply to weddings, funerals, sporting and cultural events and other forms of social gathering. A long list of exemptions includes government facilities, medical facilities, military bases, prisons, construction sites as well as public transport (not suspended due to the emergency regulations). Private industrial facilities (authorized to operate by the emergency regulations) are also free from the ban provided that all workers wear personal protective equipment and observe public health recommendations (keeping a two-meter distance, among others).

The government has set specific restrictions on different sectors of economic activity. The decree allows retail and distribution of consumer goods such as foodstuff, pet food, cleaning and hygiene products, drugs, medical equipment, agricultural chemicals and seeds. Cafes and restaurants can only provide take-out, drive-through and food delivery services. Supermarkets, groceries, pharmacies, gas stations and newsstands remain open.

Transportation companies (such as air carriers) are obliged to transport cargo and passengers at the behest of the government. Furthermore, hotels may be requested to turn their space into quarantine zones. According to the government, currently, around 50 hotels are used as isolation units.

Economy Minister Natia Turnava noted that private companies and business associations will shortly be provided with sector-specific guidelines on how to operate under a state of emergency. As stated by Turnava, the said regulations are in effect in entire country bar Bolnisi and Marneuli municipalities (where restrictions are tougher). She maintained that the government, together with the National Bank of Georgia, was taking measures to cushion the blow of the pandemic to the Georgian economy. This, she said, included subsidizing affected businesses and workers, capping prices on nine products of basic consumption and mitigating exchange rate volatility through currency interventions.

12:30 GMT+4 – Georgia’s Public Broadcaster to Air Lessons for Students Due to School Shutdown

Georgian Public Broadcaster’s Channel 2 will start airing lessons for students from March 30 as school shutdown carries on in light of the coronavirus pandemic. “It is possible that suspension of in-class instruction at Georgian schools may be extended [after April 21], hence the Ministry of Education is taking measures to distance education capacity,” Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia has stated at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council today. He has stressed that not every pupil had an access to the Internet and pledged to take charge of the problem.

10:00 GMT+4 – Five New Cases Bring Total to 66

Medical Director of Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases Marina Ezugbaia told journalists that five more cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the country, bringing the national total to 66. According to Ezugbaia, all five patients have recently returned to Georgia from the U.S. and have remained in self-isolation until yesterday. 

Monday, March 23

19:45 GMT+4 – Defense Minister Visits Quarantined Marneuli as Army Joins Efforts in Combating Coronavirus

Georgia’s Defense Minister Irakli Garibashvili has visited military checkpoints installed in Marneuli, which, together Bolnisi, has been put under lockdown since 00:30 today due to the occurrence of community transmission of COVID-19. As stated by Garibashvili, Georgian defense forces have been deployed in the two high-risk municipalities in order to help enforcing preventive measures against the spread of the disease. According to the statement released by the Ministry of Defense, the military personnel of Eastern Command has manned five checkpoints set up together with the servicemen of Ministry of Internal Affairs. Soldiers have also set up field tents where army physicians carry out medical checkup for locals. Along with the Patrol Police, the defense forces control the perimeter to ensure strict observance of the quarantine regime.

19:10 GMT+4 – 7 New Cases Confirmed, Total Rises to 61

According to the latest data available on the state-run website stopcov.ge, seven new cases have been recorded in Georgia. This brings the case total to 61. According to Marina Endeladze, Chief Physician of the Isolation Unit at Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases, four patients have been tested for COVID-19 in Tbilisi and are undergoing treatment under her supervision, while three other cases were recorded in Adjara [most likely placed in Batumi Clinic for Infectious Diseases]. Those in Tbilisi have recently been to the U.S., and form a new, independent cluster of cases, Endeladze has noted.

17:00 GMT+4 – Central Bank Suspends Licensing and Registration of Financial Institutions Due to Pandemic

In response to growing concerns over coronavirus pandemic, the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) has suspended licensing and registration procedures for financial institutions for a two-month period. “The President of the NBG has decreed to withhold licensing and registration of microfinance organizations, currency exchange services, stock exchanges, credit unions, brokerage firms, central depositaries and bond registrars,” reads the statement issued by the Central Bank today. Those institutions who have already submitted requisite documentation are exempt from the (suspension) decree.

14:55 GMT+4 – Lari Dips to Historic Low amid Coronavirus Fallout

Georgia’s national currency slid to a new low on Monday to trade at GEL 3.27 per U.S. dollar on Bloomberg’s platform, tumbling due to the coronavirus-induced slowdown. A week ago, on March 17, USD/GEL exchange rate stood at 3.14.

14:00 GMT+4 – Schools and Universities to Remain Closed Until April 21

All educational institutions (primary, secondary and higher) in Georgia will remain closed until April 21 according to the ordinance issued by the Georgian government today. Face-to-face teaching is suspended while the ordinance requires the institutions to transfer to remote instruction if possible. The government has banned conducting in-person seminars, conferences and other educational activities as well. Schools have been shut down since March 2 in an effort to contain the novel coronavirus.

13:50 GMT+4 – Police Set up Checkpoints in Municipalities Under Lockdown

Police have set up twelve checkpoints in Marneuli and Bolnisi municipalities in order to enforce a lockdown imposed at 00:30 today to prevent the spread of coronavirus from high-risk zones. According to the statement released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), law enforcement officers will patrol all non-primary roads together with the military forces dispatched due to the emergency situation. The MIA has also installed a field hospital early today to add up space for quarantining potentially infected patients.

13:10 GMT+4 – Foreign Minister Reiterates Pledge to Help Residents of Abkhazia, Tskhinvali

Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani has reiterated the pledge to help the residents in Georgia’s Russian-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali /South Ossetia regions in tackling the pandemic. “We are open and willing to provide aid for our citizens who live beyond the dividing line and we have engaged our international partners in this [process],” stated Zalkaliani at a press briefing of the government task force on the novel coronavirus. According to the Foreign Minister, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali have shut down crossing points [connecting the regions to Georgia proper], further “aggravating the humanitarian situation.” “There are single cases when we are able to provide assistance [to our citizens], but most of the time we don’t manage to” noted Zalkaliani.

On March 19, a delegation of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) arrived in Sokhumi to deliver humanitarian aid (individual protective equipment) and assess locals’ preparedness in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

12:50 GMT+4 – Georgia to Start Rapid Testing for Coronavirus from March 25

Rapid diagnostic testing will kick off in Georgia from Wednesday, March 25, after fist batch of testing kits will have arrived tomorrow, Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze stated at a government briefing. “We will start targeted testing of our population that will help our physicians and epidemiologists to detect the virus timely,” said Tikaradze. Rapid test kits will be shipped from China and South Korea over the course of this week.

12:45 GMT+4 – Georgia Reports Eight Recoveries in Total

With five more infected patients now testing negative for the novel coronavirus, the total number of recoveries rose to eight, Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze stated at a midday briefing after a meeting of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council on Coronavirus. Discharged patients will now go into two-week self-isolation under physicians’ observation, as it is prescribed by the World Health Organization guidelines. Three more patients are on the mend and may be discharged tomorrow if repeat PCR tests are negative, Tikaradze added.

12:30 GMT+4 – Gov’t Suspends Intercity Transportation Effective March 24

All forms of intercity transportation of passengers, including rail transport, will be suspended after midnight (March 24) in a bid to stymie the spread of the disease, Irakli Chikovani, Prime Minister’s spokesperson, stated at a press briefing of government’s task force on Coronavirus. Cargo transportation is exempt from the ban. Municipal transport (buses, minibuses and etc.) is also halted in Bolnisi and Marneuli municipalities that have been under lockdown since yesterday.

01:00 GMT+4 – Government to Shut Down Marneuli, Bolnisi Municipalities 

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia announced in a late night press conference that the government is shutting down Marneuli and Bolnisi municipalities, south to capital city of Tbilisi, as reportedly the Georgian healthcare authorities could not identify the source for the latest COVID-19 case confirmed in Marneuli.

“[We] could not identify the source of infection case in Marneuli, [the virus] was contracted during the [death anniversary] rites, that was attended by dozens of people,” said the Prime Minister, adding that “the situation remains quite hard; this is the challenge that we [previously] spoke about, meaning that [the country] moves to the stage of community transmission[s].”

PM Gakharia noted that freedom of movement will be restricted within the two municipalities except for grocery and pharmacy shopping and performing some agricultural works.

According to the latest 2014 General Population Census of Georgia, Marneuli Municipality is home to 104,300 inhabitants, while Bolnisi Municipality is inhabited by 53,590 persons. The two municipalities are densely populated by ethnic Azerbaijani community of Georgia. Azerbaijanis make up around 80% of Marneuli Municipality.

Sunday, March 22

12:29 GMT+4 – 10 More People Transferred to Quarantine for Violating Self-Isolation Protocol

Ten more people have been transferred to quarantine zones for having breached a 14-day self-isolation period. The Georgian Interior Ministry calles on citizens “to demonstrate high public responsibility, comply with relevant legislation and respect decisions of National Center for Disease Control.” Hitherto, a total of 190 people have been placed under mandatory quarantine for violating self-isolation protocol.

10:30 GMT+4 – Two More Georgians Recovered

Medical Director of Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases Marina Ezugbaia told journalists that two more Georgians [patient N2 and N3] have recovered from COVID-19 virus. One of the recovered patients was discharged from the hospital yesterday, while the second one is expected leave the healthcare facility today.

As of March 22 morning, three Georgian patients have recovered from the virus. Georgia’s patient zero who tested positive on COVID-19 in late February, was discharged from the hospital on March 16.

10:28 GMT+4 – Five New Patients Test Positive on Coronavirus, Total Hits 54

Government-run StopCov.ge website reports that Georgia has 54 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Georgia.

Saturday, March 21

21:20 GMT+4 – Georgian Parliament Endorses State of Emergency over Coronavirus

The Georgian Parliament confirmed the presidential decree at an emergency sitting on March 21 with 115 MPs voting in favor, clearing the way for declaring a nationwide state of emergency effective until April 21. The lawmakers gave the government the go-ahead to temporarily restrict a number of rights and freedoms in an effort to contain the further spread of the novel coronavirus.

18:45 GMT+4 – 49th Patient Tests Positive on COVID-19

Government-run StopCov.ge website reports that 49th patient tested positive on COVID-19 virus in Georgia.

15:20 GMT+4 – One More Patient Tests Positive on COVID-19, Brings Georgia Total to 48

Government-run StopCov.ge website reports that 48th patient tested positive on the novel coronavirus in Georgia.

15:10 GMT +4 – President Zurabishvili Addresses Nation, Declares State of Emergency

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has declared a nationwide state of emergency effective until April 21 in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus. The President stated she had made the decision in response to the Prime Minister’s appeal to declare national emergency in order to enforce measures necessary for limiting the community transmission of the disease.

President Zurabishvili underlined that the state of emergency did not apply to the freedoms of expression and free media so that “the media outlets would inform the public unhindered.” President’s decree does not include enacting nationwide quarantine or curfews.

14:10 GMT +4 – Georgia to Declare State of Emergency

PM Giorgi Gakharia announced at afternoon press-conference that the government initiates procedures to declare a month-long state of emergency. The Prime Minister will now appeal to President Zurabishvili to issue the relevant decree that will need a parliamentary approval.

The decision is expected to move forward in a few hours time. Following March 19 National Security Meeting, PM Gakharia clarified that “…currently there is no need to declare a state of emergency. However, with President’s consent, we decided to take this measure in a matter of few hours if and when the necessity arises.”

10:44 GMT+4 – 3 More Patients Test Positive on Coronavirus, Total Hits 47

Medical Director of Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases Marina Ezugbaia told journalists at a morning briefing today that three new patients have tested positive on COVID-19. According to Ezugbaia, one of the three patients, who has been taken to Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases, had arrived from Spain and until now remained in self-isolation.

Friday, March 20

20:45 GMT+4 – Georgian Orthodox Church Refuses to Change Communion Ritual Despite Concerns Over Spread of Virus

After hours-long deliberations, the Holy Synod, supreme governing body of the Georgian Orthodox Church, has decided not to suspend the ritual of worshipers sipping from the same spoon during Holy Communion, which, reportedly, increases risks of spreading the novel coronavirus. High-ranking clergymen gathered in the office of the Georgian Patriarchate have affirmed that the religious rite was consecrated and by no chance “it could increase risk of transmission of the disease.” The Holy Synod also issued a recommendation to place loudspeakers outside of the church buildings to avert high density of worshipers in enclosed spaces.

19:00 GMT+4 – One more new case takes total to 44

According to the government-run website StopCov.ge, one more patient tested positive on Covid-19, bringing the total to 44 cases.

13:00 GMT+4 – 14 More People Transferred to Quarantine for Violating Self-Isolation Protocol

Fourteen more people have been transferred to quarantine zones for having breached a 14-day self-isolation period. According to the statement by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, police officers intervened since the said citizens had defied requirements issued by the Center for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia. Hitherto, a total of 141 people have been placed under mandatory quarantine for violating self-isolation protocol.

12:30 GMT+4 – Gov’t Suspends Air Travel, Bolsters Coronavirus Response Measures

All flights to and from Georgia will be cancelled starting tomorrow, Irakli Chikovani, Prime Minister’s spokesperson stated after a meeting of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council on Coronavirus, a government task force. Exceptions to the ban include flights administered by the Georgian Airways and authorized by the government. Furthermore, all Georgian nationals notwithstanding flight origin will be transferred to specially designated quarantine zones upon their arrival.

Cross-border travelers are subject to same isolation measures as makeshift quarantine zones will be set up near border checkpoints in Sarpi (state border with Turkey), Red Bridge (crossing point between Georgia and Azerbaijan) and Larsi (bordering Russia).

Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze announced opening of an emergency medical center at Tbilisi Republican Hospital which will provide screening and rapid health check-up for the public. The center is tasked to carry out triage procedure, which involves determining the priority of patient’s treatments based on the severity of their medical state. Severe patients will be hospitalized and those with milder symptoms are to undergo treatment at home under physician’s observation.

Tikaradze added that 1000 kits for rapid testing supplied by China will arrive early next week. Around 200 000 South Korean test kits are expected to arrive by the end of next week as well, enabling Georgian health professionals to perform mass COVID-19 screening.

There are enough supplies in Georgia to test patients who meet the criteria for COVID-19 infection, stated Amiran Gamkrelidze, Head of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health. However, he noted, state healthcare authorities should stock up rapid test kits in addition to almost failproof, but more cumbersome PCR-based diagnostic. Testing may also be carried out in privately owned clinics and laboratories, provided that diagnostic service is offered at affordable prices, stressed Gamkrelidze.

10:45 GMT+4 – MIA Tightens Up Land Border Security to Prevent Spread of Infection

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has announced additional measures to prevent illegal crossing of the land border. The move comes after the decision of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council on Coronavirus to shut down state borders to foreign nationals for a two-week period in order to slow down the spread of highly-contagious disease. According to the statement, the Border Police will employ supplementary human and technical means to control high-risk “green border” areas. The MIA said that border patrol will equipped with protective gear when detaining possible suspects, acting in line with the recommendations from the National Center for Disease Control.

10:30 GMT+4 – Three New Cases Take Total to 43

Three more patients had tested positive on the novel coronavirus, increasing the total number of cases to 43, Marina Endeladze, Chief Physician of the Isolation Unit at Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases told journalists at a morning briefing. Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze stated that the said patients were family members who had recently been to the U.S. Currently, all three patients undergo treatment at Bochorishvili Clinic in Tbilisi.

Thursday, March 19

21:45 GMT+4 – Non-essential Stores to Shut Down In a Bid to Limit Spread of Coronavirus

All non-essential stores will shut down in a bid to limit the spread of the pandemic disease. As stated by Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, the decision was made at an emergency meeting of the National Security Council. Exceptions to the ban include food stores, pharmacies, gas stations, post and bank offices.

“The step we took is crucial for our citizens’ health; it is temporary in nature, but essential to hinder community transmission of the virus,” noted Gakharia.

President Salome Zurabishvili and Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze also attended the Council meeting. “I would like to highlight that currently there is no need to declare a state of emergency. However, with President’s consent, we decided to take this measure in a matter of few hours if and when the necessity arises,” clarified the Prime Minister.

20:15 GMT+4 – Georgian Muslims Suspended Collective Prayers Due to Threats of Spreading Coronavirus

The Administration of All Georgian Muslims, the official governing body of Sunni and Shia adherents of Islam in Georgia, has decided to suspend congregational worship (including Friday prayers) given the “serious threats of spreading the virus in the country.” The decision was made at a meeting in Batumi.

“While the outbreak of the novel coronavirus puts at risk life and health of people, the duty to observe collective prayers is temporarily lifted. Instead of Friday prayers, Muslims should perform Dhuhr (midday) prayers at home,” reads the statement. Mosques would remain open to perform individual prayers, noted the governing body. The Administration called on all Georgian Muslim citizens to keep calm and comply with the recommendations issued by public health professionals.

20:00 GMT+4 – Georgia Troops to be Confined to Barracks

Upon the decision of Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Garibashvili, from March 21 Georgian troops will be confined to barracks “to prevent coronavirus outbreak.” “This decision aims to protect servicemen and their family members,” according to Garibashvili’s statement released by the Georgian Defense Ministry.

“These preventive measures will significantly reduce the probability of virus spread at military bases. Servicemen will be supplied with all necessary means,” the statement reads. Garibashvili also noted that a certain part of the Defense Ministry’s employees have started to work remotely, while “a certain category of employees were banned to come to work.”

16:15 GMT+4 – Central Bank Sells USD 40 mln to Shore up Lari

The National Bank of Georgia (NBG) sold USD 40 million at the foreign exchange (FX) auction in an effort to soften the pressure on the exchange rate of Lari. Georgia’s national currency plunged to a new low (3.0807 GEL per 1 USD) on March 17 amid Covid-19 fallout.

12:45 GMT+4 – NCDC Updates on COVID-19 Occurrence in Georgia 

Amiran Gamkrelidze, Director of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, has delivered public statement providing firstand updates on the transmission of the disease in Georgia. Out of 39 infected patients at present, three have developed severe type of double pneumonia (including two old-age patients), while another nine have symptoms of mild respiratory disease and twenty-seven are pneumonia-free. Up to 20 patients of Georgian nationality had been hospitalized in foreign countries (mainly Europe), noted Gamkrelidze.

Currently, state epidemiologist have traced 238 human contacts of the infected patients to take requisite preventive measures. According to the official data, 1446 people remain is self-isolation and 1592 people are placed under quarantine.

12:30 GMT+4 – Gov’t Ramps up Coronavirus Response to Mitigate Contagion Risks

Public life is expected to be further curtailed in Georgia as Irakli Chikovani, government’s spokesperson, has voiced plans to impose new restrictive physical (social) distancing measures, at a now-regular noon briefing. “Stay at home, so we tackle the virus together,” urged Chikovani, reiterating call on citizens to meticulously observe all emergency regulations.

The spokesperson announced Prime Minister’s directive to all Ministries and state bodies to present instructions with regard to restrictions taking effect shortly by the end of the day. “There is no immediate need to declare a state of emergency,” Chikovani noted, elaborating on contingency measures already taken by the government. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture was tasked to hold consultations with the private sector in order to fix basic retail prices on nine “vital” products (wheat flour, sugar, rice, noodles, milk powder products and etc.). Countrywide, food inventories are “more than enough”, spokesperson stated. Chikovani added that local manufacturing of face masks and sanitizers had been kicked off. He mentioned an initiative by Tbilisi City Mayor to suspend leasing fees on property in municipal possession. The government advised other municipality authorities to take a similar approach, Chikovani said.

Tamar Gabunia, deputy Health Minister, announced contingency plans in the healthcare system to tackle the possible surge in cases. Presently, 558 hospital beds have been allocated for treating coronavirus-infected patients. The Ministry has put together a list of up to 25 medical facilities (private and public) which will provide additional capacity in response to increased number of patients. According to Gabunia, the Ministry is taking steps to stockpile rapid testing kits allowing to carry out mass screening of the disease. However, she noted, the state regulatory agency would not authorize private entities to register rapid diagnostic test systems until the national COVID-19 testing algorithm were approved by the Ministry. “We will not create any hurdles in this respect,” stressed Gabunia.

12:15 GMT+4 – Coronavirus-infected Georgian National Died in Spain

A Georgian citizen who had contracted the novel coronavirus died in a hospital in Spain, Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani stated at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council, a government task force to tackle the pandemic. According to the Minister, the patient was of senior age (73-year-old) and suffered from associated chronic diseases (deemed as risk factors). Zalkaliani added that the Consular Service was in contact with the family of the deceased and vowed help to transfer the corpse from Spain to Georgia.

12:00 GMT+4 – 28 Persons Transferred to Quarantine Zones for Violating Self-Isolation Protocol

Law enforcement officers placed 28 persons under mandatory quarantine who had violated self-isolation (housebound) regime despite requirements set by the Center for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia (NCDC). Citizens from Tbilisi and ten other regions were moved to specially designated quarantine zones to complete a 14-day period of isolation. The Ministry of Internal Affairs called on all citizens to “demonstrate high level of responsibility” and comply with public health regulations.

12:00 GMT+4 – 2 More Patients Test Positive on Coronavirus, Total Hits 40

Two new patients had tested positive on the novel coronavirus, Marina Ezugbaia, Medical Director of Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases told journalists at a morning briefing. At this stage, she said, three patients’ medical state could be assessed as critical due to complementary risk factors (old age, associated chronic disease etc.).

11:50 GMT+4 – UNDP Mission Visits Sokhumi Pledging Help to Tackle Pandemic

On March 19, a delegation of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) kicked off a three-day visit to Russian-occupied region of Abkhazia, local news outlet ApsnyPress reported. According to the reporting, the delegation arrived to “provide help” to Abkhaz authorities in their efforts to mitigate the threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The delegation held meetings with acting leader Valery Bganba, “foreign minister” Daur Kove and other Abkhaz authorities.

Louisa Vinton, Resident Representative of the UNDP in Georgia, stressed the need to assess “how prepared Abkhaz health system was” to detect cases of the novel coronavirus. The experts were tasked to issue recommendations on safety measures for medical staff and wider population, she said. According to Vinton, the UNDP delegation delivered to Sokhumi protective medical gear provided with the help of USAID and UN Women program. The equipment includes 500 kits for individual protection, 500 liters of antibacterial soap and up to 600 liters of antiseptic liquids for distribution to the public. “The United Nations envisages to extend provision of this kind of supply,” Vinton stated.

The UNDP representative highlighted that the WHO experts would examine the process of laboratory testing and provide healthcare authorities with recommendations on quarantine protocol for medical facilities. Vinton noted that the delegation was engaged in raising awareness about the rapidly-spreading disease among local residents. “It is crucial that every single person makes efforts to prevent the spread of the virus,” she said.

Moscow-backed Sokhumi authorities have not yet reported a COVID-19 case in the region.

Wednesday, March 18

21:00 GMT+4 – Georgians Applaud Doctors Fighting Coronavirus Pandemic

Scores of Georgians took to their windows and balconies at 9 pm sharp to pay tribute to the country’s medical staff by mass applause. The morale-boosting performance was launched on Facebook and shortly engaged thousands of users. Georgians clapped for a few minutes to keep spirits high while thanking doctors and healthcare professionals for their dedication.

 

14:00 GMT+4 – Central Bank to Sell USD 40 mln to Stabilize Lari

The National Bank of Georgia (NBG) will sell USD 40 million on the foreign exchange (FX) auction tomorrow in an effort to soften the pressure on the exchange rate of Lari. Georgia’s national currency plunged to a new low (3.0807 GEL per 1 USD) on March 17 amid Covid-19 fallout. The NBG also announced its decision to keep the benchmark (refinancing) rate unchanged at 9.0 %, citing “high level of uncertainty” in the global economy.

12:20 GMT+4 – Georgia to Carry Out “Aggressive Testing” if Cases Jump

Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze has announced that Georgia might adopt “aggressive testing” for the novel coronavirus, an approach endorsed by the World Health Organization. Health professionals, epidemiologists in particular, will start screening large numbers of people via rapid testing if and when the situation “gets out of hand” as a result of the community transmission.

“We are closely monitoring how different countries tackle the spread of the virus and what measures they take to treat [infected patients],” stated Tikaradze at a press conference after an emergency meeting of the Coordination Council on Coronavirus, a government task force. She referred to the best practice employed by South Korea, which had led to “detection of new cases in early stages” and thus allowed “more efficient treatment.” She mentioned ongoing negotiations with China and South Korea to supply Georgia with rapid Covid-19 test kits. “Our embassy will be in charge of transporting the cargo [test kits], we could speak more specifically about the amounts by the end of this week,” Tikaradze said.

Health Minister touched on the possibility of treating patients with mild symptoms at home in order to free up space for the severely ill in hospitals. “Around 80-82 % of the disease cases are of a mild degree, and home physicians will be able to provide care for these patients,” she clarified.

Tikaradze further reiterated that were cases to increase faster than expected, the Ministry would issue recommendation to prolong closure of schools and universities.

12:15 GMT+4 – Gov’t to Hold Remote Press Briefings to Limit Spread of Coronavirus

The government administration had decided to hold televised briefings in a bid to enforce physical distancing among journalists, Irakli Chikovani, government’s spokesperson, stated in his remarks after the meeting of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council on Coronavirus. Instead, Georgia’s Public Broadcaster will provide live signal for transmission to all TV stations free of charge. Journalists will have to submit their questions prior to the briefing, Chikovani noted. “Government will set up a communication platform for quick response to media,” he added.

10:23 GMT+4 – Four New Patients Test Positive on Coronavirus, Total Hits 38

Marina Ezugbaia, Medical Director of Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases told reporters that four new cases of the novel coronavirus were recorded, bringing the total to 38. Ezugbaia noted that the latter four infected patients came into contact with the patient(s) who had previously tested positive on COVID-19.

01:05 GMT+4 – Lari at Its Lowest Level against the Dollar

On March 17, Georgian Lari hit yet another historic low of 3.0807 per USD, as the data provided by the Georgian National Bank shows. According to Bloomberg, USD/GEL exchange rate stands at 3.1496, meaning that Georgian national currency depreciated against the US Dollar by $0.1378 in a day.

00:00 GMT+4 – Travel Ban for Foreign Nationals Comes into Effect

Georgia will bar entry to all foreign citizens for the next to weeks in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Government’s decision was announced on Monday and entered into force at midnight today (to read more scroll down to the entry on March 16 – editor’s note).

Tuesday, March 17

14:55 GMT+4 – USAID-financed ACCESS Program Allocates Funds for Georgian CSOs to Tackle Pandemic

The Advancing CSO Capacities and Engaging Society for Sustainability (ACCESS) program, a project funded by the USAID and implemented by the East-West Management Institute (EWMI) and other local partners, announced a call for rapid response grant proposals extended to Georgian civil society outfits.

Small grants program seeks to provide funding (from USD 500 to USD 5000) for CSOs willing to take “civic action” in order to limit the spread of Covid-19 in Georgia, provide critical support to affected communities, facilitate inter-sectoral cooperation to boost national response efforts, and address other significant aspects of the pandemic.

12:45 GMT+4 – Gov’t Introduces Extra Measures “to Keep Disease at Bay”

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia unveiled additional emergency measures aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus at a press conference following the meeting of the National Security Council. Freshly introduced measures include suspending the service of all minibuses (or marshrutkas, as they are known locally), as this type of vehicle was deemed “especially risky for contagion” by epidemiologists, due to the inability to keep one-meter distance between the passengers. However, he added, other modes of public transport (buses, Tbilisi Metro) will operate as per usual. “Spa centers and gyms will also cease functioning to enhance the social distancing [effective tomorrow March 18],” Gakharia stated.

The Prime Minister reiterated government’s advice to senior citizens aged 70 and more to remain in self-isolation as they constitute a high-risk group for the disease. Gakharia also spoke of the concerted efforts by the Georgian Post, Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Health to provide home delivery services for the “socially disadvantaged” (destitute) pensioners to meet their daily needs.

“We are transitioning to the stage of the [actual] spread of the disease. The healthcare system will have to get ready for a flux of new patients,” Prime Minister Gakharia said.  He then named four top priorities of the containment strategy: protecting citizens’ health; softening the blow for the economy; managing the existing inventories and supplies of vital resources; safeguarding the civil order. He further expressed willingness to provide assistance for Georgian citizens residing in the Russian-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.

11:00 GMT+4 – 34th Case Confirmed in Georgia

“New case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed this morning, as 34th person tested positive on COVID-19,” Marina Ezugbaia, Medical Director of Tbilisi Hospital for Infectious Diseases told reporters at a press briefing on March 17. Ezugbaia noted that the patient had contracted the disease from his/her family member, who is also among the last cluster of hospitalized patients (patients #31, 32 and 33 – as they are referred to by the health professionals). Ezugbaia assessed the new case to be of a mild degree of illness.

00:35 GMT+4 – Georgian Lari Hits Historic Low against US Dollar

On March 16, Georgian Lari hit new historic low of 3.0118 per USD, as the data provided by the Georgian National Bank shows. According to Bloomberg, USD/GEL exchange rate stood at 3.0577 on Monday, the weakest point for Georgia’s national currency since its introduction in October 1995.

Monday, March 16

21:32 GMT+4 – National Security Council Says ‘No Need to Declare’ National Emergency

The National Security Council (NSC), an eight-member advisory body chaired by the Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, discussed short and long-term economic risks and challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

NSC, which also includes defense, interior, foreign and finance ministers, heads of state security and intelligence services, and chief of the armed forces, does not yet consider it necessary to declare the national emergency, as the Government of Georgia has been “following a concrete action plan and making decisions” according to the current developments.

19:25 GMT +4 – Tskhinvali Bars All Foreigners, Except Russians

Tskhinvali-based RES media outlet reported on Monday evening that the Moscow-backed Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia authorities will ban the entry of all foreign citizens in the region in the period between March 16 to April 15 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. The ban, however, excludes the nationals of the Russian Federation.

As of March 16, Georgia has confirmed 33 cases of COVID-19 virus, while the number totaled 93 in the Russian Federation.

Fearing COVID-19, Russia-backed Tskhinvali leadership imposed a temporary travel ban on nationals hailing from more than 60 states on March 2. Earlier, on February 27, Tskhinvali KGB closed all crossing points connecting the region to Georgia proper until further notice.

Abkhazia, Georgia’s another Russian-backed region also imposed travel ban on all foreign citizens except for Russians on February 25. Abkhaz travel ban is effective until April 7.

19:30 GMT+4 – Sokhumi,Tskhinvali to Get Russian Testing Kits for COVID-19

The Russian Federation will provide Moscow-backed Sokhumi authorities with diagnostic test kits for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) from March 20, local news agency ApsnyPress reported on March 16.

According to the reporting, the test kits were produced by the State Research Center for Virology and Biotechnology “Vector” in Russia, which is administered by the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (also known as Rospotrebnadzor). The disease will be diagnosed based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methodology. Sample collection kits (swabs) will be distributed to all medical institutions in Abkhazia, said ApsnyPress.

In the meantime, first batch of Russian testing kits are expected to arrive in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia later this week. Georgian government has pledged to provide testing and treatment for all Georgian citizens residing in Russian-occupied regions.

Sokhumi authorities rebuffed Tbilisi’s offer to lend a helping hand, commenting that “Abkhazia issued no requests [to Georgia proper], therefore they can keep their political speculations for themselves.” Tskhinvali , similarly, turned down Georgia’s proposal for assistance claiming that “Georgian authorities were trying to do political PR for themselves.”

19:15 GMT+4 – Geneva Talks Postponed

Due to rapid spread of COVID-19 virus, the Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions (GDI), the talks designed to address the consequences of 2008 Russo-Georgian War, decided to postpone the 51st GID round, which was set to take place on 31 March – 1 April, 2020.

“The Co-Chairs will take every effort to closely keep contact and engage with all participants using available tools to adequately address pertinent security  and humanitarian related issues, among others, on the GID agenda,” reads their statement.

 

19:00 GMT+4 – the First Patient Discharged from Hospital

Tbilisi Infectious Diseases and AIDS Center, medical institution that remains at the forefront of Georgian response against COVID-19 virus, announced on Facebook that Georgia’s patient zero, who tested positive on COVID-19 in late February, had been discharged from the hospital. The patient is required to remain in self-isolation for the next two weeks.

13:20 GMT+4 – Georgia Temporarily Bans Entry to Foreigners from March 18

From March 18 midnight, Georgia will bar entry to all foreign nationals  for the next two weeks in a bid to fend off the spread of COVID-19, Irakli Chikovani, Georgian Prime Minister’s spokesperson announced on March 16.

At a press conference held after the meeting of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council on Coronavirus, a government task force formed to tackle the disease, Chikovani stated that Georgian citizens willing to return to their country would be granted an opportunity to travel via special flights run by the Georgian Airways.

Upon the government’s decision, Georgian ski resorts are to close earlier than usual this year.” Government also issued recommendation for cafes, restaurants and bars to suspend indoor service and instead to amp up food delivery service. Georgians over the age of 70 are recommended to refrain from public gatherings and to remain at home to reduce the risks of potential threat to their health.

00:00 GMT+4 – Georgia Suspends land and air travel to and from the Russian Federation 

The Georgian government announced on Sunday, March 15 that the land and air travel with the Russian Federation will be suspended from March 16.  The ban excludes freight cargo and Georgian nationals willing to return to the country.

Prior to the decision, Zurab Abashidze, Georgian Prime Minister’s special representative for Russia held phone talk with Russia’s former Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin (who maintains his mandate to carry out a dialogue with Tbilisi) to discuss the issue, the Georgian government said on Sunday.

Sunday, March 15

18:00 GMT +4 – Sarpi Border Crossing Point with Turkey Temporarily Closed

To halt further spread of COVID-19, Georgia announced on March 14 about the decision to halt border crossing with Turkey through the border checkpoint of Sarpi, village on the Black Sea coast. Land travel between the two countries still possible through Vale and Kartsakhi border checkpoints. Air travels between Georgia and Turkey not restricted.

Georgia confirmed its first COVID-19 case on February 26. Georgia’s “patient zero” was declared cured on March 15, but is prescribed to remain in self-isolation for another week. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases hit 33 in Georgia, with some of the new cases considered to be transmitted internally, Georgian healthcare officials say.

Land travel was also suspended with Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia’s southern and south-eastern neighbors respectively.

Earlier, Georgia suspended flights with China, Iran and Italy, and obliged those returning from China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Germany, France, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Norway and Denmark (countries gravely affected by the disease) to present PCR certificates confirming that they tested negative on COVID-19 while crossing the state border. Otherwise, they would be subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine.

 

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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