Georgia marked on February 26 one year since the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. Civil.Ge offers a brief summary of one of the most challenging years in numbers.
A year after revealing its first case, Georgia proper had confirmed a total of 270,137 cases, of which 264,047 recovered (97% of the infected persons), while the number of fatalities amounted to 3,485, with the mortality rate being 1.2%.
According to the latest data of the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), currently, Georgia proper has 2,572 active cases. The highest number of active cases (30,995) was recorded on December 12 when the country reached the peak period of confirmed cases.
The highest number of confirmed cases in a single day – 5,450 – was recorded during “the second wave” of the infection on December 5, while December 23 marked the highest number of COVID-related daily deaths – 51 fatalities.
Georgia conducted 2,799,497 tests (average 75,318 tests per 100,000 persons), while the overall positivity rate standing at 9.6% (last two weeks – 2.2%).
Abkhazia, Tskhinvali / South Ossetia Regions
Moscow-backed Abkhazia registered the first case of coronavirus on April 7. As of February 25, 2021, Abkhazia’s tally of total confirmed cases stood at 12,777, with the number of recoveries at 12,112. Abkhazia’s fatalities reached 197.
Occupied Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia confirmed the first COVID case on May 6. As of February 26, Tskhinvali had a total of 3,123 confirmed cases, with the number of recoveries standing at 2,245, while the fatalities are reported as “more than 70.”
Economic Impact – Steepest Decline Since 1994
The lockdowns, social regulations, and economic restrictions across the entire span of the COVID-19 pandemic made the infection far more devastating than just a medical crisis, with Georgia suffering a major economic downturn.
Georgia’s economy contracted by 6.1% in 2020, making it the steepest decline since 1994. The figures do not seem promising for 2021 either, with a reported decline year-on-year in January standing at 11.5%. For comparison, Georgia’s average growth of real GDP in 2019 equaled 5.2%, with 2018 amounting to 4.8%.
COVID-19-related restrictions negatively affected Georgia’s trade relations as well, with the external merchandise trade of the country suffering a 14.8% decline in 2020 compared to the previous year.
The exports were cut by 12%, while the imports contracted by 15.9%. Georgia marked the negative trade balance of USD 4.6 billion in 2020, while its share in external trade turnover constituted 41.1%.
The tourism revenues decreased by 83% in 2020, with inflows declining drastically to USD 542 million in 2020 from USD 3.2 billion in 2019. In 2020, 1.7 million visitors arrived in Georgia, which is an 81% decrease compared to the 9.4 million visitors in 2019.
With tourism being one of the main sources of income for the country, the travel restrictions significantly accelerated the country’s economic downturn in 2020.
The economic restrictions further aggravated the country’s unemployment problems, as the number of jobless people increased by 0.9% in 2020 (18.5%) compared to 2019 (17.6%). This growth of the unemployment rate was particularly severe in the fourth quarter of 2020 when the second lockdown raised the unemployment rate to 20.4%, the highest number of the year.
The sum of remittances in 2020 rose by 18.3% to USD 1.74 billion compared to 2019’s USD 1.47 billion, which can be partially explained by the complicated economic situation in the country. Thousands of Georgian families fully or partially depend on financial assistance from their family members and relatives working abroad, which could explain the rise of inflows amid worsened economic conditions in the country.
Georgia’s general government gross debt to GDP amounted to 58.8% (external public debt 47.7%), which is a colossal 16.1% increase compared to 2019. Last five years Georgia stood at an average of 40.88%, while the coronavirus crisis accelerated the hike in government debt.