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President Calls for COVID Passports, Vaccine Mandates for Risk Groups

President Salome Zurabishvili has called on the government to “take urgent and strict measures” to bolster Georgia’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, including compulsory immunization for risk groups.

In a late evening press briefing on November 3, she also advocated for introducing “COVID passports” for entering public spaces and charging unvaccinated people for receiving COVID-19 treatment.

Assessing the COVID-19 epidemiological situation as “catastrophic,” the President laid the responsibility on Georgian officials, including herself, “who have the duty to conduct a more active campaign for vaccination and to have more courage.”

She also scolded political parties for holding rallies “despite regulations and precautions,” without elaborating further.

President Zurabishvili also criticized the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate, which refrains from giving blessings to the parish to vaccinate, and “allows individual clergy members to preach anti-vaccine propaganda.” 

In this context, President Zurabishvili called on the Patriarchate to “give a clear instruction and example to their parishioners.” She had met Georgian Patriarch Ilia II hours before holding the press briefing.

President Zurabishvili also scolded over vaccine hesitancy of some medical professionals – “whose views hurt the common cause” – and citizens, who “are putting the country in front of a demographic catastrophe” out of personal fears.

Dismissing any calls for restrictions and lockdown as “unacceptable,” she stressed further curbs would hurt the country’s economy as part of the population is already “facing the worst social challenges.”

The statement comes as Georgian government officials strictly oppose vaccine mandates. On October 25, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili vowed not to allow mandatory immunization, arguing citizens should enjoy “the right and an opportunity of free choice.”

The Holy Synod, the governing body of Georgian Orthodox Church, one of the most influential institutions in the country, has refused to participate in “propaganda” for vaccination, and argued the issue is beyond the Church’s competence.  

As of November 4, Georgia has reported in total 738,171 cases of COVID-19, 678,288 recoveries and 10,238 deaths. Daily new infections stood at 5,206, while daily recoveries and deaths were 4,648 and 53, respectively. The number of active cases stands at 49,619.  

According to Georgia’s National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, as of November 4, only 33.1% of the adult population has been fully jabbed with two doses, while 36.7% are at least party inoculated. 3,469 jabs were administered yesterday.

The health authorities had hoped to vaccinate 60% of the grown-up population (about 1,7 mln. out of 2,841,132) by the end of 2021.

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