Policy responses for Georgia - HSRM


Policy responses for Georgia

1.2 Physical distancing

The State of Emergency will end on 23 May, and the curfew will be lifted at 06:00. Economic activities in Georgia will restart in six stages; a 2-week gap was planned between each stage, but the positive epidemiological situation has allowed things to move faster. Georgia has started local production and distribution of masks primarily intended for the general population use, as well as gloves and face shields. It is mandatory to wear a mask: at receptions in public or private institutions, meetings held in public or private institutions, and institutions where it is impossible to maintain a 2-meter distance. It will also be mandatory to wear a mask in elevators, shopping malls, high-risk indoor spaces, beauty salons and aesthetic medicine centres, general education, vocational and higher education institutions, as well as public transport and taxis. As of 15 June, individuals will be fined 20 GEL (about $6.6/€5.8) for not wearing face masks in closed public areas, public transport and taxis. Legal entities will be fined 500 GEL (about $164/€145). However, some exceptions will be made for minors under the age of six, people with disabilities and people who have health problems that prevent them from wearing a mask.

According to the Government, the decisions have been made by considering the social and economic interests of citizens, but it is essential that people adhere to the basic rules and recommendations to avoid the risk of further spread. If the pandemic situation worsens the restrictions may be reimplemented.

Stage 1 of the 3-month Crisis Response Plan was put forward on 24 April, is in place from 27 April 2020 and restrictions to support physical distancing have been gradually lifted
- Free movement has resumed
- Taxi services have reopened
- Online shopping (retail and wholesale) is permitted
- Delivery services for all types of products is permitted
- Agricultural markets are allowed to reopened
Public service halls and community centres will resume work from 6 May throughout Georgia with an online booking service for specific time slots.

The second stage started from 5 May and includes restarting construction, production of construction materials, car wash services, technology repair businesses, and recreational zones (parks).

The third stage started from 11 May includes reopening shops where they have their own entrance from the ground floor (not shopping centres, shoe shops or clothes shops), open markets and publishing houses. All kinds of production were also restarted. The beauty parlors and aesthetic medical centers also opened sooner than initially planned – these were initially included in Stage 4. Clothing stores are recommended to disinfect dressing rooms every two hours and stores should be fully sanitized at the end of the day.

The fourth stage (envisaged for 8 June, but enacted on 1 June) saw shopping centres, restaurants, and financial service reopening. (with mandatory facemasks in shopping centres and restaurants). Shopping centres must be sanitized every day, while they must also clean the rails of escalators, lift buttons, bank terminals and toilets every two hours. Booking and non-cash payments are recommended for restaurants as are single use menus and table covers as well as enhanced cleaning measures in common areas (including in toilets, corridors, halls and in elevators) every two hours.

In the fifth stage (envisaged for 22 June), closed markets and restaurants will reopen.

Finally, the sixth stage (envisaged for 6 July) will see all activities back to normal, including opening hotels, schools, bars, casinos, and entertainment and sport facilities.

Domestic tourism resumed on 15 June and international tourism was scheduled to re-open on July 1 when international flights would resume, however this was postponed for the summer season, and regular international flights will not resume before 1 October. Georgia intends to require valid COVID19 test results for all international travellers and visitors and use the principle of air corridors. As of 8 July, air corridors with Germany, France, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are open (all five countries have also opened borders for Georgia). All other individuals who enter Georgia have to spend two weeks (from 15 September, 8 days if PCR tests are negative) in quarantine (at their own expense) and complete an electronic form in advance, which is available on the Georgian Government's special website www.StopCoV.ge. However, with the changing global situation, from 15 September, all international travellers to Georgia will require valid (within 72 hours prior to arrival) negative PCR test results. All borders remain closed to all but those who have Georgian citizenship. Using face masks, maintaining physical distance, washing hands and avoiding large gathering places – all these requirements remain in force for the tourism season and throughout the country.

Georgia intends to have COVID free touristic zones and serve groups of tourists from similar risk countries. International tourism is being promoted with the slogan: ‘Georgia – Safe Destination!’ Within the framework of gradual re-opening of the economy and domestic tourism, the Georgian government has permitted holding open air seminars, training as well as adventure activities such as rafting, kayaking, canoeing – marine, air and land adventure activities provided certain safety measures are observed.

From 2 June, in order to prevent the spread of the virus, pre-election campaigns and meetings with members of political parties will be held in open spaces at different locations.

The Ministry of Education announced on 9 June that national exams for university entrants will start on 6 July and will end on 25 July. Exams for master’s degree studies will begin on August 1 and will end on August 4. Only 10 entrants will be allowed to sit the exam together. Tables will stand 2m apart and there will be a special, transparent barrier in front of each table. Entrants and invigilators will have to wear face masks. Air conditioners will be used before the start but switched off during the exam. Any entrants who have a high temperature before the exams will be tested for COVID-19 free of charge, but even if the test is negative, these entrants will sit the exam in isolation.

On 25 June the Georgian national football league resumed behind closed doors with a championship derby in Tbilisi.  Exhibitions, training and conferences may be allowed from 6 July. Fitness centres and swimming pools have not resumed working yet, but regulations for their safe reopening were published on 6 July: before entering buildings, staff and customers must undergo thermal screening; group classes can include no more than 10 individuals at once; open shower rooms will be closed; individual towels should be provided for visitors in single-use packaging unless they bring their own; clients must have access to their own locker; food and drink services will not be provided; protective transparent barriers should be in reception spaces for the staff; and staff should wear gloves when handling cash; enclosed spaces should be provided with natural ventilation and ventilation system should be on constantly (24/7) in sanitary rooms; wet cleaning should be used in exercise spaces at the end of each day. At pools, poolside chairs should be 2m apart and have to be sanitized before and after each use; showers must be available for clients to use before saunas and baths and they must be sanitized every two hours; and employees must be equipped with proper hygiene and protective equipment.  The ban on holding open air cultural events was lifted from 13 July, and public outdoor gatherings of fewer than 200 people are also allowed again.

Georgian schools and universities will reopen on 15 September, depending the epidemiological situation in the country. The safety measures that will need to be in place are still being developed, but will cover issues such as seating arrangements, hand washing, mandatory facemasks, and class sizes. In areas that have had local outbreaks - namely Batumi and Kobuleti in the Adjara region (see Section 6.1 Transition Measures),  schoolchildren and students will continue to study remotely for the first two weeks of term, and in classrooms only from October 1.Kindergartens will reopen on 1 October. Protocols are being developed for the safe reopening of libraries.

Regulations were in place for theatres and cinemas to reopen on 1 October, but this has been postponed until 1 November due to the changing epidemiological situation. When they open, audience members will be seated in a chessboard/staggered manner, skipping one seat between places, and the use of face masks will be mandatory.

Despite a surge in cases in September 2020, the government stated it remained in control of the situation and there were no plans for another nationwide lockdown.

Before the end of March, community transmission of COVID-19 had been successfully contained in Georgia. With the first confirmed cases that could not be fully linked, the Government of Georgia enacted a ‘national quarantine’ from 31 March 2020. A State of Emergency was declared from 21 March to 21 April (later extended to 10 May and then to 22 May) which introduced a broad package of measures that aimed to increase physical distancing, including a curfew between 21:00 – 06:00; the suspension of all public transport; a ban on gatherings of more than three people (previously gatherings were limited to 10 people); a requirement that people keep 2m distance in food shops and pharmacies; and checkpoints will be set up for thermal screening in the largest cities.  All shops have been closed except for food stores, banks, post offices and petrol stations. All offices and state agencies have moved to remote working. Educational institutions are closed and the schools will not go back before 1 September. All food services are closed or delivery-only. The ski-resorts were closed early (on 16 March 2020). People over the age of 70 were advised to self-isolate to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 from mid-March and home delivery services were put in place from 17 March 2020. Earlier on 2 March formal education was suspended, and on 13 March, the Social Campaign “Stay Home” was launched. On 14 March, remote working and distance learning were initiated.  Agricultural markets will only reopen when they comply with standards developed by the National Food Agency and the Ministry of Health  https://bit.ly/3c54SgV  On 21 April, the Government decided to extend the ban on the movement of cars until 28 April as part of measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19.

Before Easter it was feared that churches would be full as the Georgian Orthodox Church had refused to close to maintain physical distancing. Following negotiations with the Government, the Church only promised to ask congregations to maintain physical distancing. Many worshippers heeded government advice and stayed home, enabling physical distancing for those who did attend. 

During the State of Emergency, court hearings may be held remotely and special arrangements have been introduced at penitentiary institutions. Accused and convicted inmates’ right to family, long-term and short-term visits as envisaged under the Code of Imprisonment has been suspended, along with short-term visits outside the institutions restricting their freedom. Also, during the State of Emergency, convicted inmates’ right to leave institutions for study and/or work as well as on public holidays and weekends have been suspended. Newly admitted accused and convicted inmates are placed in isolation from other accused and convicted inmates. People on probation do not have to visit Probation Bureaus. Compulsory meetings probation officers, social workers and psychologists were cancelled.