Georgia removes quarantine restrictions step by step but getting back to normal life is still a long way to go.
A “face mask policy” introduced by the Georgian government is still successfully countering the COVID-19 threat, with 593 people infected and 9 people dead. This is the lowest rate in the region. Although some restrictions were already lifted by the end of April, the country is still under rather strict quarantine. From 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. citizens have a curfew time; public transport still does not work. The education institutions proceed working online. However, after May 5, some companies will come back to work. Besides, the ban on passenger cars movement was lifted. The restriction on entry and exit was lifted for two large cities Batumi and Kutaisi. Tbilisi, though it is still under quarantine, seems to open soon too.
The political statements are slowly changing the temperature regime. The direct fear of COVID-19 is replaced by a fear of a social character. Political discourse spills into the space of social policy, employment, compensation and economy, as well as food security, local markets further advancement by domestic production promoting, protectionism in economy, etc. One can often hear the nationalist rhetoric of the 1990s, and only time will tell on its potential to grow into real politics.
Although some restrictions were already lifted by the end of April, the country is still under rather strict quarantine
A rather serious tension, caused by the church demand to celebrate Easter in the presence of parishioners during a curfew time, became a kind of manifestation of the struggle for traditional values. One by one, the members of the government publicly, at an official briefing, announced that they did not intend to go to church on the religious holiday. They all said they would watch the liturgy on TV. The government had obvious expectations for the Patriarch to refuse to sing the mass in the parishioners’ presence. However, the church met them only partially and called on the parishioners, who are not healthy, not to come to the temple. The rest of the compromise was to keep mainly large temples open. Parishioners were advised to keep a social distance, use face masks, come to acting churches before the curfew time, and stay there until 6 a.m.
In recent times, various issues are on the polemic agenda with the church both on external and internal fronts, and it has moved into a more acute phase. The government is facing an obvious challenge: on the one hand, started by the liberal opposition, and on the other hand, connected with radical conservatism growth. It is not difficult to predict that the elections, scheduled for this fall, will take place in the context of this ideological confrontation.
Slowly Lifting Restrictions
According to the National Statistics Office, in April 2020, compared with the previous month, the inflation rate in Georgia was 0.9%, and the annual inflation rate reached 6.9%. As for core inflation, in April 2020 this indicator amounted to 4.6%, compared to the same period in the previous year, while the annual core inflation rate (excluding tobacco) was 4.1%.
Against this background, the 6-stage government plan proposed to the country’s population is intriguing. According to the Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, the first stage began on April 27, and the interval between the next stages is set for two weeks. Besides, the implementation of the plan will take into account the epidemiological situation in the country.
The first phase of restrictions lifting began on April 27. In compliance with the established procedure, they allow the following activities: passenger cars are back on the country’s roads, as well as taxi services, wholesale and retail e-commerce, delivery service of any product, and open type grocery markets resume their work too. At the same time, on April 27 and 28, only for two days, citizens were allowed to move between the closed cities to return to their place of residence or work.
At the second stage, the government intends to remove restrictions on construction, construction activities supervision, production of building materials, full-fledged functioning of car washes and car services; repair of computers, personal and household goods; recreational areas functioning.
Gradually, step by step, the rest of the business will open. Coming through stages may be accelerated, and some activities will be “open” faster.
MFA Returns the Georgians Back Home
The process of Georgian citizens returning to their homeland goes on. According to the latest data for April, the Georgian diplomatic missions assisted 18,646 citizens. Besides, 9,486 citizens returned to their homeland by air, land and sea, supported by the Georgian government and due to the Coordinating Council planned activities. However, these are not all who would like to return, and the real number of people interested in going back to Georgia is much higher. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs constantly announces special flights. Most of the returnees are those who lost their jobs, and sometimes even homes.
At the same time, the opposition assaulted the government for its slow and ineffective actions in this direction. The most biting criticism comes from the Mikheil Saakashvili’s team, whose leader is faced with a new political reality in Ukraine and may get a position in the Ukrainian government. The Georgian government was definitely dissatisfied with such actions of its strategic partner, Ukraine, which did not take into account that Saakashvili was convicted by the Georgian justice. The opposition was angry with the Georgian authorities for their allegedly thoughtless actions and, as one of the opposition members said, “having hysterics” instead of staying out of its close partner’s way.
Meanwhile, the Russian occupation forces continue to border on the occupied territories of Georgia, abducting people, as if the coronavirus became a dope for them. However, the fact that the virus, including coronavirus, is the causative agent of the occupational appetite for the Empire, is daily proved not only in Georgia but also thousands of kilometres from here.
Photo: Despite quarantine and curfew, the Georgian Church refused to close Easter service for parishioners.