Covid 19 in Georgia

Finally, the sun is back! Because the weather was so good yesterday, we decided to go on a long hike. We went to see the Tbilisi Sea and from there, we walked all the way home. All in all, we covered 15 km and were extremely tired at the end of the day. So, one day late, here is our new blog about the corona situation here in Georgia.

The Georgian news website keeps telling us how good Georgia has been handling corona. The Georgian PM gets a lot of thumbs up from surrounding countries and even receives compliments from all over the world. Today, 539 people are infected with Corona, 6 have died and 178 have recovered (Georgia has a population of 3.7 million).

You’d think that corona has just started here, but actually the first cases were discovered on the same day as the first case in The Netherlands. So, what did they do to prevent corona from spreading?

At the end of February, Georgia had its 3rd case of corona. By then, the government decided to start being careful and they took the first measurements. Schools have been closed since March 2nd and at the beginning of March, borders to surrounding countries were closed too. Besides taking early measurements like closing borders, closing most shops, setting a curfew (we are not allowed to be outside from 9 pm until 6 am), wearing gloves in supermarkets (and now also facemasks), people had (and still have) to go into quarantine a lot! Whenever there is a slight chance you’ve had contact with a person with corona, you have to go into quarantine. This happened to us in the restaurant in Gudauri. There had been some customers with Corona and all of us had to go into quarantine.

On top of that, the police actually check that you stick to the quarantine and hand out a really high fine when you don’t obey the rules; all fines are terribly high. There was never a full lockdown here, such as the one in Italy for example, but whenever there is a city with a larger amount of infections, that city or county will be closed off completely! This way, the government tries to contain the spread of the virus as much as possible. And they were doing really good, until Easter came…

Easter is a bit different here. The orthodox church is the biggest church in Georgia and Easter is a week later than it is in the Netherlands. With Easter, people go to church, share the same spoon (to drink the blood of Jesus) and get together with friends and family. A lot of families go to graveyards and have picknicks next to the graves of their ancestors. The government was very worried that corona would spread rapidly during these days and tried everything they could to prevent this. But they did not close the church or forbid the Easter ceremonies. Obviously, churches here still are pretty powerful!

What they did do, was close down the 4 main cities of Georgia. Since Tbilisi is the biggest city, from then on, we were stuck here! Besides this, they also put a ban on private transportation. It was so quiet on the streets for a week, it was great! They even closed all the graveyards for the Easter weekend, which we noticed when we went on a long walk.

We ran into a dozen police cars; they were all parked near the small entrances. We even had to cross a police line to get to the church we were headed. Luckily, they let us! On a side note: on a lot of our walks, we pass the most beautiful graveyards. Some look like entire cities! There are benches and some graves look like picknick areas…

But… back to Corona: all the measurements seemed to help a bit, because even though there was a raise in numbers, it didn’t spread as much as some people thought it would. Last Monday, the Government even started an 8 week ‘re-opening’ plan. Every two weeks, more restrictions will be lifted. It is really nice to see some dates on which we can go back to ‘normal’ (even though some might be postponed later). If all goes well, in 7 weeks we might be having dinner in outside restaurants again! Unfortunately, there’s still no word on when the big cities will open again, so we will just have to wait and see.

Yesterday, we read an article that stated that Georgia might be one of the first countries to start opening borders for tourists again. That would mean that we would be able to start moving freely again! We can’t wait.

Of course, we would love to continue our travels and our plan, but that will still take a while. We might have to change our route, but planning is impossible these days. For now, we are just glad that, very slowly, life seems to start returning to ‘normal’ again.