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Quarantine in Georgia - Day 1

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Wednesday, April 1
On March 30th, a Georgian citizen from the Gali region of occupied Abkhazia, tested positive for COVID-19. The patient was diagnosed in Zugdidi Hospital for Infectious Diseases, where she now undergoes treatment for the disease. She was transferred from the Abkhazia region into Tbilisi-controlled territory late on March 29th. According to the clinic, the woman's condition is stable.

The woman had travelled to Moscow, Russia, then came to Sochi and then to Saberio, in the Gali district of Abkhazia, from where she was transported to Zugdidi, to Tbilisi-controlled territory by ambulance. All people in close contact with the patient (during her stay in Gali village) had been detected and put in isolation by Moscow-backed Abkhaz authorities.

The de facto authorities of Abkhazia have already restricted movement between Gali district and the rest of Abkhazia by setting up roadblocks on Gali-Ochamchire highway, several hours after the woman tested positive for the virus. It is the first confirmed case of the virus in the region.

On March 31st, 2 young children were transferred to the Zugdidi Hospital for Infectious Diseases from the Saberi-Pakhulani section of occupied Abkhazia, where they will undergo COVID-19 examination.

Acting de facto president, Valery Bganba, ordered the Interior Ministry to immediately deploy a militia cordon to a stationary checkpoint between Ochamchire and Gaul to block traffic between the 2 districts. The de facto MIA forces were deployed on this section of the road late on March 30th.

Due to the spread of the Coronavirus, the de facto authorities of Abkhazia have called the so-called Enguri River. Traffic at the border has been restricted since late February, and was completely shut down on March 14th. The government of the breakaway republic initially claimed that no one had crossed the de facto border on the Enguri River.

In the Gali district of occupied Abkhazia, the curfew came into effect which will operate from 20:00 to 07:00. Citizens are not allowed to be in the streets or other public places at this time. The de facto Interior Ministry has also been ordered to detain those who violate the ordinance.

The remaining Georgians in the occupied Gali district were receiving pensions, allowances and medical services and products and medicines in the Zugdidi municipality, mainly there.

Since March 30th, with the closure of the road to Ochamchire and, consequently, to other parts of Abkhazia, the population of the Gali district has been completely isolated.

The Abkhazia region announced the ‘state of emergency’ on March 28th to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions (GDI), UN Representative Cihan Sultanoglu, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus Rudolf Michalka, and EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia Toivo Klaar released a statement yesterday, in which they are calling for ‘greater cooperation across dividing lines’ amid the novel Coronavirus pandemic.

The Co-Chairs appeal to all GID participants ‘to put aside mistrust and animosity, avoid antagonistic rhetoric, and work together to reach out to the most vulnerable.’

“We urge all GID participants to do their utmost to protect vulnerable conflict-affected populations, especially women, men and children in areas facing particular isolation,” reads the statement.

The Co-Chairs also stressed that they “are encouraged by some collaborative approaches that have already taken place, but more needs to be done to ensure that all people, regardless of where they live or what language they may speak, have equal access to healthcare.”

In Tbilisi-controlled territory, special checkpoints have been set up at the entrances of 7 cities of Georgia, Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Zugdidi, Poti and Gori. The checkpoints will also be operational in Telavi and Akhaltsikhe municipalities. Through these points, the relevant units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, together with the representatives of the Defense Forces, control the movement of persons within the administrative boundaries of cities and the fulfillment of state of emergency restrictions. The thermo-screening of citizens is also underway.

The government's hotline 114 was launched on March 30, following the announcement of a universal quarantine and was soon reset due to the large number of calls.

Tougher restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 went into force yesterday. Since March 31st,8 a.m., a quarantine regime is activated, including a nationwide curfew that will be in effect from 21:00 – 06:00.

Public transport has been suspended, groups of more than 3 people are prohibited to gather. The measures will be in place until at least April 21st.

On March 31st, the Ministry of Health of Georgia stated that about 40 district clinics have been designated to serve patients with fevers.

Deputy Minister Tamar Gabunia said that Georgia's hospital sector began preparations for the increase of the number of cases a few days ago. Gabunia assures that district-level clinics are already well-equipped to safely receive patients with fever and respiratory symptoms. Fever zones will be prepared, or, in case it cannot be managed, the clinic will only fully serve fever patients and redistribute others.

She also spoke about rapid tests, reminding that 2,000 antigen-based rapid tests, which require a simple analyzer to perform PCR testing, arrived in the country on Sunday. Besides, there are also 4,000 tests on antibodies in Georgia.

As for negotiations with other suppliers, Gabunia said there are numerous providers of rapid tests and negotiations are underway with both South Korea and China. According to the deputy minister, negotiations are also ongoing with Cepheid, the only cartridge manufacturer based on PCR technology, to use it for many infectious diseases and, hopefully, by the end of April, Georgia will have a specific date of their receipt.

Paata Imnadze, Deputy Head of the National Center for Disease Control announced yesterday at a briefing held after the Coordination Council meeting, that more than 2,200 people have been tested for COVID-19. Imnadze also spoke about the death of a Georgian citizen in New York City, USA. According to him, the 5th citizen of Georgia died abroad from COVID-19. Based on the information provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 3 Georgian citizens have died in Spain and 1 in the UK.

As of March 31st evening, Georgia has 110 confirmed cases of the virus starting from February 26th, 2020. Out of 110, 87 are inside the country.

Georgia, which has received international praise for its effective fight against the virus, has 21 recovered patients from the respiratory infection caused by the virus, Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia Yuri Nozadze among them.