Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili unveiled today an initiative to waive some GEL 76 million (USD 24 million) worth of accrued unpaid fines for violating COVID-19 related curbs.
The proposal has been registered in the Parliament and will be adopted in the near future, the PM said. When endorsed, the law will release about 245,000 persons and 344 businesses from administrative or criminal liabilities for violating face mask, self-isolation, quarantine and curfew regulations.
“We understand that following the restrictions were necessary when managing the virus [spread], but it is also important to relieve the economic [burden] on our citizens,” PM Garibashvili said, explaining the reasoning behind the proposal.
Regulations in effect stipulate that first-time disobedience with face mask rules results in a fine of GEL 20 (USD 6), while a repeated violation in a GEL 40 (USD 12) ticket. Violating quarantine, self-isolation and curfew restrictions result in a GEL 2,000 (USD 600) fine for persons and a GEL 10,000 (USD 3,600) fine for legal entities, while a repeated breach leads to criminal liability.
In the latest move to ease COVID-19 curbs, the Georgian authorities announced on June 22 the 23:00-04:00 curfew would be lifted starting July, while face masks would no longer be mandatory outdoors, effective immediately.
Watchdog suspects political goals
The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), a local watchdog, said the proposal “raises the suspicion” that writing off the fines is “conditioned by the forthcoming local self-government elections or other political goals.”
The watchdog argued that by announcing the initiative, the government also “undermines the legitimacy of the restrictions it has applied,” and “encourages” future violations of COVID curbs, if they are imposed again.
NB: This article was updated at 17:56, IDFI statement was added.
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