Georgia is to make COVID-19 passports obligatory for people to enter restaurants and other entertainment spaces from December, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili has announced.
Announcing the decision on Monday, the authorities said that ‘green passports’ would indicate people’s vaccination status, a negative PCR test within the previous 72 hours or negative antigen test within 24 hours, or if someone had recovered from COVID-19. There will be no time limitation after someone recovers from the virus.
The government said they planned to release a new stand-alone ‘green passport’ mobile application as well as printed certificates.
The green passports will be required to enter cafes and restaurants, including both indoor and outdoor service, bars, hotels, gyms, cinemas, theatres, museums, winter resorts, and more.
The restrictions will apply to all customers of such venues who are 18 or over, including tourists, but not to employees.
Deputy Health Minister Tamar Gabunia specified that the restrictions would not apply to essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies, and public transport.
Gharibashvili also announced a one-time ₾200 ($63) payment to pensioners who had received their first shot by the new year.
During his speech, the PM reiterated his commitment that ‘vaccination would not be compulsory’.
‘This is my firm decision and I will not change it’, he said.
On 8 November, Georgian medical authorities reported 2,191 new cases and 74 new deaths, bringing the total death toll in the country to 10,509. So far, 950,00 people have been fully vaccinated, around 26% of the total population. Over the past 7 days, the positivity rate of those tested was 10%.
The president calls for more aggressive action
The announcement follows a suggestion by Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili to take more aggressive measures against vaccine hesitancy. In a speech on 3 November, the president strongly called on the government to introduce ‘urgent and strict measures’ including mandatory vaccination for at-risk groups.
Zurabishvili, who also criticised the Georgian Orthodox Church for remaining vague on the issue, went as far as suggesting that unvaccinated people who contracted coronavirus should pay for their own treatment.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgia has a vaccine inequality problem]
Georgian medical authorities welcomed most of Zurabishvili’s proposals, including her intention to join promotional trips to Georgia’s regions to convince people to get vaccinated.
Amiran Gamkrelidze, the Director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has admitted that a national lottery in which vaccinated people are automatically enrolled had not produced the expected results.
Also on Monday, the Health Ministry recommended vaccine boosters for those aged 16 and over six months after being vaccinated.
According to the NCDC, the Coronavirus Coordination Council was also mulling extending vaccination to those aged 12–15 who have no chronic illnesses.