Prime Minister Holds Briefing After Session of Government Print Version

2020-10-15

The operation of restaurants and all entertainment establishments in Tbilisi and Imereti will be restricted - they will operate until 22:00, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia stated at a briefing following the session of the government.

The government made the decision at today's session, which also included epidemiologists and the mayor of the capital.

"Today and in recent days a record rate of infection has been reported globally. Yesterday, for example, the figure stood at 381,000. Today, we encountered a record number of 919 infected persons in Georgia which, of course, is already a significant number and it seems that we will exceed the mark of 1,000 cases in the coming days. We must all understand that no way of quickly stopping the epidemic exists in the world as of yet, except for strict restrictions and lockdowns. We all understand, however, that we have a consistent and declared plan of adaptation and virus management and this has an explanation and a reason. A key component of this explanation is the further economic development of the country, as well as rapid economic recovery. We must all remember that despite the global challenge, economic competition in a post-crisis economy will be completely different and our main goal is to emerge from this crisis in a manner that will cause minimal damage to, first and foremost, the health of our citizens and our country's economy. Therefore, our main strategy in this regard entails the use of quick, pinpoint restrictions, which are essential and should yield quick results. In this regard, and given the epidemiological situation that I mentioned, according to which, as you know, there are 919 new cases of infection, of which 366 are in Tbilisi, 286 in Adjara, and 104 in Imereti, we have decided to restrict the operation of restaurants and all entertainment establishments from 22:00, starting tomorrow. This is a decision that will that will only allow us to slow down the spread of the virus. We must all understand, however, that this is not enough. We all have our share of responsibility in this regard and this responsibility is, of course, primarily shared between the government, the authorities, organizations - both state and private - as well as our citizens," the Prime Minister stated.

According to the head of the government, eight months later, with the pandemic raging in the world, no other effective way of combating the virus has been invented besides the use of face masks, social distancing, and hand washing.

Giorgi Gakharia noted that the use of face masks is mandatory indoors and epidemiologists recommend that citizens wear face masks in open spaces as well.

"These are the most effective means of protecting ourselves and our loved ones. As you know, using face masks is mandatory indoors in the country and epidemiologists recommend wearing face masks in open spaces as well. This is not difficult. We must all understand that for at least one year, face masks will be an integral part of our lives," Giorgi Gakharia stated.

The head of the government called on citizens and organizations to strictly follow the rules.

According to the Prime Minister, despite the fact that we have a rather low rate of mortality and in statistical terms, Georgia is faring better than many other European countries, these are the lives of specific persons and not just numbers.

"First and foremost, we must all take care of the health of our elderly citizens. This is the highest-risk social group and we must all understand that the social structure of the Georgian family is somewhat different - three or four generations often live together; therefore our responsibility is much higher than in other countries. We must take this into account and all of us must protect ourselves as much as possible, we must wear face masks in order to protect our loved ones and our elderly citizens," the Prime Minister noted.

The head of the government also emphasized the responsibility of public and private organizations and urged everyone to transition to a remote mode of operation as much as possible, wherever possible. Furthermore, as the Prime Minister noted, the leaders of organizations must take care of their employees and equip them with the necessary means of protection.

"This is the recommendation. All commercial organizations, enterprises - which we have always supported in order to avoid the cessation of their operation - must take this responsibility into consideration. What happened recently in Poti, when up to 100 infected persons were identified in one organization - of course, we must take our employees more seriously, we must take care of them and provide them with the necessary equipment so that these people can protect themselves," Giorgi Gakharia stated.

In addition, given the recent relative stabilization of the spread of the virus in Adjara, the government has decided that the operation of public transport, including intercity transport, will be resumed in Adjara starting on 19 October.

As the Prime Minister noted, the restrictions imposed on the educational process, as well as those imposed on restaurants and entertainment establishments will remain in force in Adjara.

According to the head of the government, the decision to resume the education process in the auditoriums of higher education institutions from 19 October remains in force.

Higher education institutions will be issued a recommendation to allow remote learning where possible. However, in cases where this is not possible, laboratory and practical lessons will take place in auditoriums.

"When we talk about adaptation and virus management, this means that the basic needs of our citizens - such as schools, kindergartens, and higher education - must not be restricted. We will do everything to ensure safety in these areas, especially the field of education. The Ministry of Education has received the relevant instructions in order to ensure compliance with the highest level of safety standards in schools, as well as higher education institutions," the Prime Minister stated.

According to the head of the government, the objective of the authorities is to minimize the damage done to the economy.

"We always say that we are fighting on two fronts: the health of our citizens and the economy. Economic losses must be minimized. We had particular results in this direction prior to the second wave. As you know, the country's economic downturn has dropped from 16 to 5.5%. We have an improvement, however small, in foreign investments, and a significant breakthrough in exports, 8% more than in September of 2019. All this preconditions the rapid restoration and maintenance of jobs and enables the country to keep positive ratings, in order to have a competitive advantage in the period of post-crisis economic recovery, and that will allow us to recover jobs fast. All that has been correctly noted, and international rating organizations have kept Georgia's positions. This is especially important given the turbulent situation in our region and Europe," Giorgi Gakharia stated.

According to the head of the government, the International Monetary Fund forecasts 5% economic growth in Georgia in 2021, with the highest growth rate-5.5%-in the region in 2021-2025.

"This is our forecast, and if we manage the virus and economic processes correctly, we will have a chance to improve these numbers further," Giorgi Gakharia stated.

The Prime Minister stressed the importance of high responsibility on the part of citizens and maximum compliance with the established rules in the process of the revitalization of economic life.

"The revitalization of economic life is a necessity that all of us need, first and foremost, in order to retain jobs, recover jobs where possible, and enable our citizens to provide for their families with dignity; however, we must do all this in accordance with the rules in order to minimize the rate of the spread of the virus and the risks associated with it. Today, there are two ways to stop the virus: A full lockdown - completely shutting down the country as much as possible - which will yield results in a brief period of time and will almost completely stop the spread of the virus, or adapting to the virus and managing it. However, adapting to the virus and managing it requires a great deal of responsibility from all parties - the government, both public and private organizations, and our citizens. We all need to understand that today, patriotism in the country means following the rules, wearing face masks, maintaining basic discipline, and obeying the law. This patriotism will enable each of our citizens to protect his or her health and, of course, to rebuild the economy as quickly as possible," the Prime Minister stated.

According to the Prime Minister's assessment, any speculation about the increase in the number of infected people, the readiness of the medical sector, or the sufficiency of the bed complement is extremely unacceptable and immoral.

"The government and the Ministry of Healthcare, as well as other ministries, have been preparing for this for months - we all understood and stated repeatedly that there would be a second wave, as well as an increase in the number of infections. The most important thing is to manage this process, which we are doing today. I tell you frankly that even though we had 919 cases of infection today and we will most likely exceed the mark of 1,000 [daily cases of infection] in the coming days, and the increase will continue further, the healthcare system will withstand this blow with the help of the new approach, which we have already included in the plan and have put into operation. What does this mean? This means that clinical management has already been rearranged and it is segmented in a way that allows people to be distributed in different directions; most importantly, it ensures that severe cases are admitted to ICUs, of which there is no short supply in the country today. The healthcare system is fully prepared," the head of the government stated.

According to the Government's decision, the frequency of the existing flights to Paris and Munich will increase from the end of October, while from November, direct flights from Kutaisi to Europe will resume, cautiously and gradually.

"The first step will be to organize additional flights to these destinations which, in addition to giving our citizens the opportunity to travel to Europe and giving our economy a little more oxygen, will also be of help to us, including in terms of bringing observers into the country in a simple manner. Furthermore, I would like to emphasize that subsequently, in November, direct flights to Tbilisi and to Europe, as well as from Kutaisi to Europe will be resumed in a gradual and cautious manner. We are doing this precisely in order to give our citizens the opportunity to become employed more easily through economic activity," the Prime Minister stated.

According to the head of the government, quarantine spaces, which the government utilized very effectively, have played an important role during the first stage of the spread of the epidemic. Today, Georgian citizens returning to Georgia need to be quarantined for a mandatory period of eight days. This regulation is being amended and all Georgian citizens returning to Georgia with a PCR test will have the opportunity to self-isolate for 12 days as an alternative to quarantine.

Citizens who have not undergone PCR testing will still be able to make use of quarantine spaces.

"With this, we are trying to introduce more dynamism to our economy. As regards quarantine spaces, we have always stated that quarantine spaces are the main buffer in terms of preventing the virus from entering the country and then spreading rapidly. Of course, this is true and these spaces have played an extremely important role during the first stage of the spread of the epidemic. Today, we have made a decision; once flights have been added and additional flights have been arranged, [the manner of] working with our citizens who have entered quarantine spaces and the scheme of their transfer to quarantine will be changed," Giorgi Gakharia stated.

The head of the government pointed out that the pandemic is a global challenge that no country taken separately will be able to tackle, and that it requires a global response.

As Giorgi Gakharia noted, optimistic predictions concerning the vaccine were unfortunately not justified and, correspondingly, the country and the world will have to live under the conditions of the pandemic for the next year.

"I would like to emphasize once again that this is a joint responsibility for all of us, as was the case when we were victorious during the first stage. However, we paid a heavy price for our victory at the time - the lockdown and the restrictions - and today our economy will not be able to survive this. Therefore, we - all of us, the government, the citizens - must learn to manage [the virus], wear face masks, maintain distance, and observe the basic requirements of hygiene. We will go through this as well, we will defeat this as well, but the most important thing here is for us to understand and shoulder our share of responsibility. I would like to reiterate: Civil responsibility, discipline, obeying the law and following basic rules equals patriotism today. I believe that together, we will overcome this challenge as well, and we will win this battle in a way that will also allow the survival of our economy. Let us take care of our elderly citizens; they are facing the greatest risk today. Therefore, you can assume that when we protect ourselves, we are protecting our elderly citizens. The recommendation for our elderly citizens to stay at home remains in force, wherever possible," Giorgi Gakharia stated.


Press Service of the Government Administration