Policy responses for Georgia - HSRM


Policy responses for Georgia

1.5 Testing

To effectively manage increased epidemiological risks in light of the opening up of the economy, the Government of Georgia has identified high-risk groups that will be subject to mandatory PCR testing, including:
Medical institutions:
- Patients from any medical facility or outpatient clinic who have a fever and signs of respiratory disease or other suspicious clinical signs.
- Medical staff working in medical institutions and in primary health care.
- Staff of emergency medical care and disaster brigades
- Beneficiaries and service personnel placed in specialized day care facilities for the elderly and disabled
- All persons newly diagnosed with tuberculosis prior to inclusion in treatment
- Staff working in psychiatric medical institutions
- Patients on dialysis and their service personnel
Quarantine spaces:
- People in quarantine and people in self-isolation 24 hours before leaving the space
- Staff working in quarantine spaces
- Persons employed in customs checkpoints and border crossings, as well as in economic zones
- Personnel and epidemiologists employed in all inpatient medical facilities, intensive care and resuscitation departments

Georgia plans to test 6,000-8000 people daily for Covid-19 in autumn. The Government of Georgia has procured 147,000 rapid COVID-19 antibody and antigen test kits and 250,000 PCR tests with $80 million in support from the World Bank’s Emergency COVID-19 Response project. This will triple Georgia's testing capacity to 3,000 samples per day by mid-July.

From 2 August, mass testing is being conducted at the Eliava Market in Tbilisi's Didube District, one of the larger market areas in the capital, as pandemic prevention. NCDC workers were designated two rooms in the administrative offices of the market to set up testing facilities for about 500 samples a day from those trading at the market and send them for analysis. Voluntary free testing for Covid-19 was available in Tbilisi on 22-23 September.

The personnel of emergency medical services, who belong to the high-risk group, will undergo PCR testing every 72 hours.

The resurgence of COVID-19 in autumn 2020 has meant that over 50,000 people were self-isolating as of 8 December, by 15 December this had fallen a little to about 48,000 and by February 2021 it was around 14,500 and by 17 March it was 5,150. As of 17 March 2021, more than 3 150 000 tests have been conducted (over 1 880 000 PCR tests and over 1 270 000 antigen tests) and daily testing capacity is 20000 + tests. Contact tracing capacity is 10 000.On 28 April 2021, 27,373 tests had been conducted around the country in the past 24 hours: 13,217 rapid tests and 14,156 PCR tests. Over 5 million tests have been conducted in the country so far (2 June 2021): 2 683 482 PCR tests and 2 454 853 antigen tests. 

On 2 December the Interagency Coordination Council launched an intensive testing programme to run 20,000 COVID-19 tests a day for the duration of the 2-month-long countrywide phased restrictions plan.

From 1 February 2021, as part of easing the most recent restrictions (see 1.2 Physical distancing: Transition measures), new PCR testing regimes have been introduced for various categories of workers:
- Businesses will be responsibility for testing their staff for COVID-19;
- Trading facilities of all types employing over 30 staff, including markets, will be required to ensure at least 20% of their staff get COVID-19 tests once in a fortnight;
- Eateries will be required to ensure at least 50% of their staff get COVID-19 tests once in a fortnight;
- Systematic testing of teachers will be administered once in a fortnight;
- Taxi drivers will also  be tested once a fortnight.
- Businesses are able to register at a designated portal to have their staff tested for COVID-19 within the scope of Intensive Testing Program funded by the State [www.labour.moh.gov.ge].

The mandatory testing programme are due to be phased out and replaced with vaccination certification so that fully vaccinated people do not have to undergo mandatory PCR testing.

Testing is based on PCR method and is currently carried out by 14 laboratories across the country, including the Lugar Center (the national reference laboratory in Tbilisi), the Infectious Diseases, AIDS and Clinical Immunology Research Center (Tbilisi), the Regional Center for Infectious Diseases, AIDS and TB (Batumi), the TB and Infectious Pathology Center for West Georgia (Kutaisi), as well as one private laboratory Neolab (Tbilisi). The government has a strategy of expanding the network of laboratories should the need arise, and the two of such surge laboratories have already been assessed by WHO. More than 570,000 PCR tests have been conducted up to 23 September, with daily capacity of existing designated laboratories being over 7000 tests.

The Lugar Center has been able to test samples for COVID-19 according to international protocols since 4 February 2020 and it has sufficient supply of test kits. Initially, only suspected cases (people who travelled abroad or had contact with overseas visitors and had symptoms of acute respiratory infection) were tested. From 1 April 2020, in addition to people who meet the criteria for the case definition, also hospitalized patients diagnosed with pneumonia of unknown origin are tested.  At this stage, frontline medical personnel are also targeted with aggressive testing. The latter will be further extended based on the algorithms developed by NCDC (considering disease dynamics, needs, WHO recommendations and global good practice). Testing can be requested by the examining physician or by epidemiologists.