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. Staff in establishments that serves or deal with food must wear a mask and gloves. 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.

From 4 November, wearing face masks in open public areas became mandatory around the country, to prevent the further spread of coronavirus, and refusing to wear one could result in a 20 GEL fine. If one refuses to wear a face mask in open areas. Previously, wearing a face mask was mandatory only in closed public areas.

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 (maximum 2 passengers who must sit in the back)
- 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 31 December. 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 were open (all five countries also opened borders for Georgia). All other individuals who enter Georgia had 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.

With the changing global situation, from 15 September, all international travellers to Georgia required a valid (within 72 hours prior to arrival) negative PCR test result or undergo PCR testing at their own expense in a laboratory located at the airport or they will be placed under quarantine. People placed in quarantine have to spend 8 days (formerly 12 days) there and then take a PCR test. If the result is negative, they will be able to leave quarantine. However, they will still be obliged to take a second PCR test three days later. If the result of the repeat PCR test is positive, individuals will be hospitalised if needed. If hospitalisation is not needed, then the individual will be placed under quarantine and will continue treatment under the supervision of doctors.

From 2 December, Georgian citizens entering the country will be allowed to self-isolate at home, not just at designated quarantine facilities. 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. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 31 October and the Central Election Commission (CEC) has given additional time to voters who are in self-isolation due to the coronavirus to request ballot box services. Voters, who were officially registered as self-isolating by the Health Ministry, were able to phone CEC from 24-26 October to request ballot box service on election day - the registration was extended until 18:00 on 27 October due to the high-demand. Each member of the special election group, including all participants in the election process, will be equipped with appropriate PPE, in particular, a disposable robe, mask, gloves, protective shield. Special polling stations and their staff will have no contact with ordinary polling stations, to control the potential spread of infection.

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 were to reopen on 15 September, but this was pushed to 1 October and then 19 October in response to the epidemiological situation in the country. In-person schooling restarted throughout Georgia, with the exception of Adjara region where the epidemiological situation did not allow it. The safety measures cover issues such as seating arrangements, hand washing, mandatory facemasks, and class sizes. The Education Ministry will impose restrictions only on those schools which have confirmed cases of COVID-19; any infected teachers or students will go into self-isolation, schools will be disinfected, and online studies will continue. Some of the schools in the regions of Adjara, Guria and Samegrelo as well schools in the municipalities of Gori and Khobi, have already moved to distance learning due to confirmed coronavirus cases. In-person studies in schools resumed on 1 October throughout the country, but only for grades one to six. Parents can opt to have their children do remote studies instead of face-to-face. Only in-person lab and practical activities resumed at Georgian universities from 19 October. As of 3 November, teaching was online only in Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi, Telavi, Zugdidi, Zestafoni, Gori, Marneuli and Gardabani for grades 1 through 12 in all public and private schools until at least 25 November. 

Kindergartens opened on 12 October (postponed from 1 October) throughout Georgia except in the Adjara region and Ozurgeti municipality, as, at that time, most of the newly infected cases of coronavirus were recorded in those areas. Of Tbilisi’s 183 kindergartens, four did not open on 12 October as personnel tested positive for the coronavirus. On 5 November, all the Kindergartens in Tbilisi were closed once more.

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. From 10 September, social events and rituals, such as anniversary celebrations, wedding and memorial receptions, including outdoor events, have been banned – including outdoor nightclubs.

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. The NCDC is using a four-colour traffic light scoring system (green, yellow, orange, red), by calculating the average number of new cases per 100,000 for the previous two weeks along with how many beds hospitals should have, how many doctors should be involved in the process and what kind of medical supplies are needed. According to NCDC there will not be a complete lockdown in the country because of the increased numbers of coronavirus cases, but targeted and local restrictions may be put in place in various location. As of 27 October, the whole country was in the ‘red zone’. 

From 9 November, a curfew went into effect in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi, Zugdidi, Gori and Poti between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. due to an uptick in coronavirus cases. This will not be a typical curfew but ‘a local restriction of movement’, the violation of which will be punishable by 2,000 GEL. It was also announced that:
• Both public and private kindergartens will temporary close in all of these cities
• The number of passengers will be reduced and regulated in municipal transport

Everyone is required to properly use face masks indoors and outside and maintain social distancing, including during political processes (there are parliamentary elections on 31 October and 21 November). Restaurants throughout the country must close by 22:00. 

The Government is likely to impose further restrictions to curb the increase in new infections of coronavirus, but there are no plans to declare a complete lockdown. Along with new restrictions, enforcing existing ones is of high importance. This particularly concerns the wearing of face masks. As of 18 November, only about 55-60 percent of Georgian citizens wear face masks (both in closed and open areas). 

New countrywide phased restrictions from 28 November 2020 – 31 January 2021

For Phase 1, a curfew has been introduced, prohibiting all pedestrian and motorised traffic between 21:00 at night and 05:00 in the morning. New Year’s Eve (31 December) and Christmas Eve (overnight from 5 to 6 January) are exceptions to this rule. 
Restaurants and food facilities will need to move to takeaway only, including delivery and drive-through services. Gyms and swimming pools need to implement further restrictions. All types of conference, training, cultural and entertainment events will have to move online and sport, art and afterschool activities will be restricted.

Regular intercity transport by railway and bus have been restricted, although travel in light vehicles (including taxis) is allowed. Municipal public transport in Tbilisi, Telavi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Gori, Poti, Zugdidi, has been restricted and in these cities (as well as in the ski resorts o Bakuriani, Gudairi, Goderdzi, Mestia) there are additional measures:
- Shops (except grocery stores, animal food stores, pharmacies, veterinary pharmacies, household chemicals and hygiene shops and newspaper kiosks) are online / telephone service only;
- Schools, vocational colleges and higher education institutions (except for medical education programs) have fully transferred to distance learning;
- Private and public kindergartens are closed.

Additionally, at ski resorts:
- Hotels are only allowed to open as quarantine spaces;
- Ski slopes and ski lifts will not operate.

In Phase 2 from the 24 December to 2 January the restrictions will be loosened countrywide. Shopping malls, open and closed markets will be allowed to reopen and municipal and intercity transport will resume. Phase 3, from 3 January – 15 January has been declared a national public holiday and all the restrictions in place from 28 November-24 December will come back into force.

During Phase 4, from 16-31 January, public and private institutions will be closed, expect for banks and strategic sites and services. On weekdays, municipal and intercity transport will resume; shops and open and closed markets will reopen (but not at weekends). In both markets and public transport, wearing a facemask will be mandatory, and switching on air conditioning or heating is prohibited in buses. The movement of private vehicles on bus lanes, which was allowed while the movement of public transport was suspended, has been banned again.

Through all phases the restrictions will not apply to travelling in light vehicles (including taxis) and economic activities including:
1. State and private construction-development activities;
2. Banking and financial activities;
3. grocery, animal food, pharmacy, vet-pharmacy, household chemicals and hygiene shops and newspaper kiosks
4. Delivery and takeaway
5. Beauty salons and aesthetic-medicine centres
6. Car repair services and technical inspection services
7. Agrarian markets
8. and some other

On 8 December, The National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia temporarily closed museums and natural reserves to visitors.

On 20 January, the Interagency Coordination Council adopted a plan for the gradual easing of restrictions from 1 February 2021 (https://stopcov.ge/ka/News/Article/ra_shezghudvebi_rcheba_dzalashi_da_ra_ikhsneba_pirveli_tebervlidan):
-Municipal transport, schools, shops and malls will resume in Batumi, Zugdidi, Gori, Poti and Telavi, but will not operate at weekends;
- Shops and malls will resume trading in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Rustavi on weekdays (but not weekends);
- Outside service in eateries in Adjara can resume from 1 February, but the ban on wedding parties and other large social events will remain in place (eateries in other regions, including those at hotels, will operate as currently restricted - via take-away and delivery services);
- markets in all cities will resume operations from 15 February 2021.
From 1 February, in-person studies resumed in all cities and towns of Georgia except for Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Rustavi. In-person studies in these cities resumed from 15 February.

Gyms are scheduled to reopen on 15 March.

On 2 March, as the number of coronavirus-infected individuals in Georgia has decreased over the past few weeks, the Georgian government has lifted several Covid-19 restrictions across the country. After a few months pause restaurants reopened in the Black Sea resort town of Batumi. Museums and libraries have also reopened.

Private and public kindergartens also resumed work starting today, where once every two weeks, 20 per cent of employees of kindergartens will have to undergo mandatory testing for Covid-19.
Higher and vocational schools will be able to resume clinical, practical, laboratory activities and conduct examinations in a non-distance format as of March 1. In-person studies in lecture halls will resume March 15.

On 8 March aerial lifts in mountain resorts reopened in line with epidemiological standards and regulations and indoor dining restrictions were lifted. Malls and markets are now also allowed to open on weekends.

The curfew will remain in force from 21:00 until 05:00 throughout the country.

In March 2021, research found that wearing face masks in the country has been dropped to 43 per cent. By 12 April 2021, the Interagency Coordination Council recommended employers transfer their employees to a remote work schedule and declared May 4-11 nationwide public holidays.

The Interagency Coordination Council has urged citizens to adhere to coronavirus recommendations, wear a face mask, observe physical distancing and avoid large social gatherings. Complying with those rules will be strictly monitored. The Interagency Coordination Council also called on the public and private sectors to work remotely and addresses the elderly people to stay home as possible. The curfew remained in force from 9 pm to 5 am, but was relaxed slightly from 1 June 2021 to support farmers and facilitate the sale of agricultural produce, to run from 23:00 to 04:00. On top of that, restaurants are not allowed to open everyday, instead, they can only offer a takeaway/delivery service on weekends. The relevant services will also tighten monitoring over the people in self-isolation or quarantine, including PCR test checking in airports. The Interagency Coordination Council also reviewed the ongoing vaccination process and stressed the importance of its further intensification.

The Georgian government imposed several coronavirus restrictions ahead of the Easter holidays (2 May 2021): Municipal transport will not work across Georgia between 3-12 May; the roads to cemeteries will be closed by police during the holiday to prevent assemblies there; churchgoers will have to obverse coronavirus rules during the Easter liturgy when a curfew will also be in effect (from 23:00 of 1 May to 04:00 on 2 May 2021).

From 1 July 2021 the curfew will be lifted in Georgia; and from 22th of June, wearing a face mask in outdoor spaces will no longer be mandatory. Restaurants and food facilities in general will also be allowed to open until 00:00.

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. The Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) will broadcast live lessons for school children starting 30 March. All food services are closed or delivery-only, establishments serving just alcohol are closed. 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. Restrictions were imposed on visiting cemeteries in all cities throughout the country. 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 private vehicles 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.