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As election looms Georgia hits nearly 1000 daily COVID-19 cases

15 October 2020
A health worker on a hospital balcony in Tbilisi. Photo: Tamuna Chkareuli/OC Media.

The government has claimed the healthcare system is prepared for more coronavirus cases but urged Georgians to follow recommendations. The authorities said they don’t plan on postponing the parliamentary vote.

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia announced today that from 16 October, ‘restaurants and all entertainment establishments’ in the capital city of Tbilisi and in the western region of Imereti will be forced to close each night by 22:00 at the latest.  

The Prime Minister did not introduce any further anti-pandemic restrictions. He also stated that the government remains committed to their plan of reintroducing non-distanced learning at higher education institutions on 19 October.

The announcement came after Georgia confirmed 919 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, a new daily record and a big jump from the previous record 680 daily infections on 14 October. 

Gakharia also ruled out postponing the election day, slated for 31 October. He also cited the worsening outbreak as the reason he did not engage with other prime-ministerial candidates in pre-election debates.

‘In a quite toxic election period any topic is used for political speculation and we just don’t have time for this’, he told reporters on Thursday. 

Recently, Tbilisi replaced Adjara as the epicentre of the outbreak in Georgia, with new 366 cases confirmed on 15 October. 

Of 919 new cases confirmed on Thursday, 104 were from the Imereti region.

‘Five Fauci rules’

Recently, the government insisted on a ‘targeted response’ instead of sweeping nationwide restrictions, they argued the latter would place too much stress on the economy.

In a briefing today, Amiran Gamkrelidze, Director of Georgian National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), urged Georgians to follow principles based on the ‘five rules’ initially presented by Anthony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The rules include wearing a face mask, observing social distancing, avoiding large congregations, opting for open-air seatings, and following hand hygiene. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gakharia has assured the public that Georgia’s healthcare system is not overwhelmed and was ready for over 1,000 new cases per day. There are a total of 14,400 cases nationally, including 7,367 recoveries and 113 fatalities. 

Recently, the government prioritised hospital beds for high-risk coronavirus patients, placing some of those with light or no COVID-19 symptoms in hotels specifically chosen for this purpose. According to Georgian Health Minister Eka Tikaradze, as of 15 October, there were 1,090 such patients.

Out of 919 new cases on 15 October, according to the NCDC, 431 were asymptomatic. 

Negative PCR test result instead of quarantine 

Gakharia has also promised a gradual increase of direct outbound flights from Tbilisi and Kutaisi airports, including to Paris and Munich. 

Starting in November, Georgian citizens returning from abroad will not be placed in quarantine provided they have a negative PCR test result for coronavirus. Instead, Gakharia said, the government would let the returnees self-isolate for 12 days at home. If a returning citizen does not have papers that confirm a negative test, they will be required to stay at ‘quarantine hotels’ for the same period.

As of 15 October, according to official numbers, there were 5,792 people in such quarantine hotels.

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