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National Security Council meeting held on March 19

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, March 20
The meeting of the National Security Council was held last night with the presence of the President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili. After the meeting, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia briefed the media regarding the decisions made during the meeting.

According to the PM, the measures taken against the COVID-19 need to tighten and become stricter since the country is facing the second phase of the epidemic – the internal spreading of the virus, which requires additional measures to be taken. In order to protect the social distance and the degree of mobility limit, Gakharia voiced the decision to close all shopping malls and centers, except for grocery stores, pharmacy chains, gas stations, post offices, and banking departments.

The Prime Minister also announced that since the president of Georgia and the speaker of the parliament were present, the issue of declaring emergency situations throughout the country was also discussed at the meeting. He said there is no need to declare a state of emergency at the moment, but if necessary, they will make the appropriate decision in coordination with doctors and the healthcare system within a few hours.

According to the Parliament Speaker, three main topics discussed at the meeting were public health, plans, and mechanisms in the economy as well as the political and legislative processes.

Besides, PM and health minister Ekaterine Tikaradze met with the representatives from 20 private clinic officials yesterday. As the PM noted, the main burden will be on state clinics and for this purpose, several medical institutions are already prepared. However, as the country goes through the spread of the virus, there may be a need to fund extra beds, with private sector support being of extreme importance. Representatives of private clinics have confirmed their readiness to allocate clinics both in Tbilisi and in regional centers.

In addition, the meeting discussed issues related to financing and the prevention of shortages of primary care. In this regard, it was positively assessed that Georgia started producing production veils and disinfectants.

According to Tikaradze, more than 500 beds are now mobilized to receive patients, the process is divided into several stages and beds will be gradually released if needed.

“We have the capacity to mobilize 700 beds in second-group hospitals, and then have tertiary-level hospitals that have the resources to allocate 700-800 beds to those infected with the coronavirus. We are preparing extra beds, which will be from 1000 to 1500,”- the minister said.

Yesterday it was also announced by the defense ministry that since March 21 - all soldiers will be barred from leaving the military base in order to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus. According to minister Gharibashvili, “The transition is aimed at protecting military personnel and their families.”

PM’s spokesman Irakli Chikovani notified the public regarding another decision that aims to mitigate the negative impact of Coronavirus on the business. Small and medium-size business owners that have leased municipality-owned areas for their business activities will be freed from lease payments for 3 months.

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze noted that 600 SMEs who have businesses in Tbilisi will not have to pay rent for three months.

On March 13, the Georgian government postponed the payment of property and income taxes by four months that will benefit 18,000 companies and 50,000 employees.

Educational institutions, various commercial establishments have already been closed. Georgia has reported 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one already recovered and discharged.