Since reporting its first case of coronavirus on 26 February, Georgia has had only 61 confirmed cases of the virus as of 23 March. With 3,320 people placed in mandatory quarantines, the Caucasian country is being lauded as a success story in the global fight against the pandemic.
The Telegraph: "What the UK can learn from smaller countries on how to avoid total lockdown"
Yet as Covid-19 last week crossed the world landmark of infecting one million people - Georgia stands out among the European crowd as a country that has coped unexpectedly well with the global pandemic", wrote the Telegraph.
Georgia’s coronavirus miracle: So far, so good
The country, with a population of around 3.7 million, has so far reported just 174 confirmed cases of coronavirus: 28 of those diagnosed with the virus have fully recovered. Just two people have died from Covid-19-related symptoms in the country, a 79-year-old woman with a number of underlying health problems who passed away on April 4, and an 81-year-old woman on April 5.
The Black Sea and COVID-19
Rates of infection in Georgia are still relatively low – at the time of writing there are 115 confirmed cases of COVID-19 – and officials have been praised by the WHO for taking quick steps to combat the virus. As a precautionary measure, Tbilisi banned all foreigners from entering the country and suspended flights with high-risk countries. While travel bans have become the standard crisis response for countries around the world, this will have a significant impact on Georgia which relies heavily on tourism to support its economy.
Particularly vulnerable are the Russian-supported breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where healthcare systems may buckle under a long-term pandemic. Given the unrecognized political status of these territories, access to aid is limited. International partners have provided occupied Abkhazia with medical supplies but the ability of the Georgian government to support the region is hindered by years of heavily restricted access and Russian aggression. Thankfully, this hasn’t prevented the opening of Rukhi General Hospital a few miles from the dividing line with Abkhazia, as well a recent statement by Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia that Georgia “will do our utmost to protect the health of our citizens on both sides of the dividing line.” The international community should be watching Russia’s involvement in the region as it manages the crisis within its own borders.
Prime Minister of Georgia explains why the country has had no deaths from coronavirus
"We saw the warning signs early on and acted on them. Our first official action came on January 22 when the Georgian National Center for Disease Control warned Georgians against traveling to Wuhan," Gakharia said. "At the time, we told Georgians there is a 'small, but theoretical' chance the virus could reach Georgia. A few days later, as everyone knows, the situation in Wuhan was becoming direr, and on January 26, we began checking all travelers returning from China."
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Some success stories are unexpected. On theDon’t Touch Your Facepodcast,Foreign Policy’s Amy Mackinnonsingled outthe early response of the country of Georgia. Despite its small size and struggling economy, the country began taking serious measures at the end of February, including closing schools and conducting widespread diagnostic tests. Georgia has so far confirmed 117 cases and no deaths from COVID-19. “I think the fact that the government took it seriously from the very start has helped,” the Georgian journalist Natalia Antelava told Mackinnon. So has Georgia’s mindset. “This is a country that is used to crisis, and it is a country that has lived through civil wars and the Russian invasion in 2008 and a very dark period through the ’90s after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Antelava said.