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NGOs urge the government to act to reduce coronavirus risks during elections

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Wednesday, October 21
Georgia has reported 1,194 new cases of coronavirus on October 20th. According to the head of the National Disease Control Centre Amiran Gamkrelidze, 60 of them are medical workers. He said that infected medical workers will be replaced by rotation methods.

“We had similar cases in the spring, when emergency doctors were infected in Bolnisi, Kvemo Kartli, and were replaced with doctors from different regions. There are some reserves, of course," Gamkrelidze said.

As of October 20th, 11,033 individuals remain infected with Covid-19 in Georgia. It was announced that day that the country can admit 800-900 additional patients in hospitals. At the moment, 2,817 of them are undergoing treatment in clinics, while others are either in hotels or homes as they are experiencing a mild form of the virus.

Georgia has had 19,857 cases of coronavirus since February, of which 8,666 individuals have recovered, while 158 others have died.

In connection with the growing number of confirmed cases and approaching elections, 12 NGOs issued a statement, saying that it is necessary to determine the peak rate of the infection when the government declares a state of emergency in the country. The organizations issued a joint statement regarding the safe environment of the elections.

"We, the signatory organizations, believe that choosing between public health and the democratic development of the country is not the right way to balance interests,” reads the statement.

The organizations focus on a few details during the coronavirus election campaign: There will be crowded gatherings in the pre-election period and on election day; Some politicians have changed their campaign plans to prevent the spread of the virus; Politicians refrain from crowded gatherings and reduced the so-called door-to-door campaign as well; The virus has been confirmed to several party leaders, affecting the electoral process; With the deteriorating epidemiological situation will possibly significantly reduce the number of voters who decide to go to the polls; Observers and political parties face significant challenges;

There is also a significant challenge for the election administration, whose tens of thousands of employees will have to be on commissions almost 24 hours a day on election day or in a mobile box, including communicating with quarantined voters;

It will be difficult for observer organizations to observe the voting process of the thousands of citizens remaining in the quarantine zone and self-isolation.

“Given the challenges, it is necessary to expand the format of the Crisis Council, which will involve all key actors related to the elections (including political parties, the non-governmental sector, and the ombudsman),” the organizations said.

A few days before this statement, the head of the government said that there are no grounds to postpone the elections at this time.

It has also become known that the European Parliament will not send an election observation mission to Georgia. The initiator of the discussion on sending the European Parliament Monitoring Mission to Georgia was the ‘Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats’, in particular, MEP Sven Mixer. The issue was to be discussed at a party conference of European Parliament presidents on October 15th, but the issue was removed from the final agenda. The reason for the decision is related to the letter of David Sassol, where the President of the European Parliament informs the MEPs about the regulations according to which, due to the coronavirus pandemic, several activities of the European Parliament should no longer be carried out or temporarily suspended. The letter, obtained by Euractiv, states that the activities of election observation delegations should be temporarily suspended.

Opposition parties have stated that it would have been better if observers could arrive, but that democratic election will be possible with the help of local observers and non-governmental organizations. The opposition also calls on the voters to be active and to make their own choice.