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Coronavirus in Georgia – 27 April - 3 May



Georgian health officials sent upbeat messages this week, with Georgian Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze saying that Georgia has not had a dramatic peak in virus cases, and that the country has managed to control the spread of the virus. Tikaradze said on April 28 that the country’s health professionals are no longer expecting a larger increase in coronavirus infections in May.

Echoing this optimism several days later, head of the government administration Natia Mezvrishvili said on May 2 that the six-phase plan recently introduced by the government, which called for an incremental opening to economic activity over intervals of two weeks, may move quicker than predicted, provided the number of cases remains low.

In a more cautionary appeal, Director of the National Center for Disease Control Amiran Gamkrelidze tempered expectations at the beginning of the week when the first restrictions on e-commerce and private vehicle transport were lifted, commenting: “new coronavirus will not end in June, nor in July, nor in August or in September. In other words, we will have to learn with this new virus. For some reason, the population accepted yesterday’s lifting of restrictions as if we had defeated coronavirus in Georgia, and can do everything [we want to] now. No, folks, this is simply the very first step towards alleviation.”

Excitement may be harder to quell against the backdrop of news of other European countries beginning their own reopening, with Austria lifting movement restrictions on May 1, restaurants and bars opening on May 15 and hotels by the month. Spain meanwhile is allowing small businesses and hotels to open by May 11. Greece wants to welcome tourists back in mid-summer.

Georgia did record two deaths this week, bringing the total number of Georgian citizens to die from the infection to eight. Meanwhile, the number of cases as of the end of May 2 was 582. The number of daily infections over the past two weeks has remained stable at around 12.

Assistance for the unemployed

Those left unemployed by the coronavirus epidemic will start receiving payments in early May –200 GEL once a month for six months. A recent clarification by Deputy Finance Minister Lasha Khutsishvili explained that in order to be eligible for the assistance handouts, former employees must have received one official paycheck at least once in the first quarter of 2020.

He also noted that those on unpaid leave are also eligible to receive assistance. Employers will be responsible for submitting a list of names, personal data, bank details and contact information for every employee that falls into this category by the 15th of each month.

The self-employed will be able to apply for assistance between May 21 and June 1 for the one-time payout of 300 lari, however many such individuals will face difficulties in proving that they are indeed self-employed, and for which they will need to provide evidence and documentation.

Testing

The country’s rapid testing has expanded to include other vulnerable groups, such as individuals in shelters for the elderly and homes for the disabled, Tikaradze announced on 28 April, adding the country is receiving a steady supply of tests. Earlier this week Georgia received an additional 40,000 PCR tests and 20,000 antibody tests from China free of charge.

Meanwhile the number of daily tests being conducted hit a local record of 1,096 in late April. NCDC Head Amiran Gamkrelidze says the number of tests performed daily will rise to 1,700 by mid-May, and later to 2,000-2,500 by the end of the month.

All physicians, drivers, junior medical staff in the ambulance system will be tested for COVID-19 every 14 days.

Georgia is embarking on an attempt to possibly treat COVID-19 patients with blood plasma containing coronavirus antibodies. Tbilisi Infectious Disease Hospital Director Tengiz Tsertsvadze noted that the process requires the donations of many individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, and has thus proceeded slowly.

Business and economy

E-commerce businesses were allowed to resume operations earlier this week provided they passed hygiene inspections.

Open-air agricultural markets also opened at the start of this week providing some relief for agricultural workers in the regions. Only several markets were again closed due to failure to comply with the hygiene standards and requirements set by the Ministry of Health,

The government is encouraging businesses to begin applying for permission to begin operations in advance so as to be ready to reopen their doors as the plan to restart the economy proceeds.

The National Bank of Georgia meanwhile reduced the refinancing rate to 8.5% from 9%.

GeoStat released economic data for March 2020, showing that the Georgian economy contracted 2.7%, slowing y/y economic growth for January–March to 1.5%.

The number of companies that registered businesses in March was down a full 48% in comparison to the year before.

Georgia came in fifth in the 2019 Open Budget Index – a measure of 109 indicators that reflect a national budget’s transparency, good news given the country plans to mobilize $3 billion received from international donors to help kickstart the economy.

Did you hear?

Georgian company Scroll has launched a system of 1000 electric scooters in Tbilisi, which may come as a relief for people weary of public transportation or taxis. The scooters cost 1 GEL per ride + 35 tetri per minute.

Kolga Tbilisi Photo Week is going virtual for the first time in 19 years, and will be held online at www.kolga.ge. The event starts on May 4.

BGI Law Brief, (General Regulatory Update) - May 2020

(posted on May-21-2020)

Grant Thornton Tax and Legal Alert - Overview of changes in Georgian legislation, April 2020, in Georgian and English

(posted on May-18-2020)

In what circumstances will criminal law liability be imposed for violating the rules of the state of emergency? by Business Legal Bureau (BLB) in Georgian and English

(posted on May-18-2020)

Deloitte Academy training- Business Evaluation/ Covid 19 impact on companies' international operations.

(posted on May-8-2020)

EY Law Updates on Covid-19

(posted on May-7-2020)

Grant Thornton: Legal Response to Covid-19 Challenges

(posted on May-1-2020)

Could the President of Georgia establish the criminal law liability for violation of Emergency regime? by BLB Partner Ms. Maya Mtsariashvili

(posted on Apr-29-2020)

Deloitte: COVID-19 Anti-crisis Economic Plan Introduced by the Government of Georgia (in Georgian and English)

(posted on Apr-27-2020)

KPMG: Tax adjustments and challenges caused by the spread of New Coronavirus (COVID-19) (in Georgian)

(posted on Apr-25-2020)

BLB Newsletter, April 13, 2020 (in Georgian and English)

(posted on Apr-15-2020)

Dentons launches 2020 edition of its 'Investing in renewable energy projects in Europe' guide

(posted on Apr-7-2020)

Nexia TA release on Government decree about restrictions against Covid 19 - see document and annex (in Georgian)

(posted on Apr-6-2020)

SavvY has launched a platform for supporting companies through Covid 19 crisis - supportbusiness.ge

(posted on Apr-3-2020)

BGI Law Brief, (General Regulatory Update) - March 2020

(posted on Mar-31-2020)

BGI Law Brief, (Georgia Responds to Covid-19 Pandemic) - March 2020

(posted on Mar-31-2020)

Deloitte Legal, Mar-10

(posted on Mar-10-2020)

Special offer for AmCham members from Dinehall

(posted on Mar-05-2020)

The Biltmore Hotel: proposal for Women’s Day Sunday Brunch

(posted on Mar-05-2020)

Dentons' Tbilisi office contributes to 9th annual Tbilisi VIS Pre-Moot

(posted on Feb-26-2020)

New menu in Tiffany Bar and Terrace Restaurants

(posted on Feb-25-2020)

Deloitte Legal, Feb-10

(posted on Feb-25-2020)

Dentons' Tbilisi office contributes to the Energy Investment Risk Assessment (EIRA) 2019

(posted on Feb-24-2020)

IRC Academy is more than pleased to invite you to attend the Sales & Marketing - Business Model Canvas course. (March 10-11-12)

(posted on Feb-24-2020)

AE Solar: the biggest PV modules manufacturing facility in Europe

(posted on Feb-14-2020)

BGI Law Brief, February 2020

(posted on Feb-11-2020)

Deliberate market focus drives solid growth for Grant Thornton

(posted on Jan-21-2020)