Georgian opposition launched “coronavirus attack” against authorities
Georgia was pleasantly surprised. You could even say - struck a successful opposition to the epidemic of coronavirus. The country entered the world Top 3 in this regard, leaving far more powerful and developed countries behind. And statistics with neighboring countries seem completely sky-high, as if Georgia is located in one part of the world, and Azerbaijan, Armenia - in another. According to official figures of the governments of the three countries as of June 26, 919 cases, 14 deaths against, respectively, 14852 and 180, 23247 and 410.
The relaxation of quarantine measures allowed in Georgia seems quite natural - almost everything has returned to normal. There are shops and bazaars, transport and enterprises. The population continues to comply with the main medical prescriptions - to wear masks, to keep social distance. Starting June 15, internal tourism was officially restarted, and people exhausted by imprisonment rushed to wherever: to the sea, to the mountains, just to visit relatives, etc.
The government supported the business as far as possible. First of all, tourism and construction are two interconnected spheres that have become the locomotive of the Georgian economy, but from a pandemic stop, they immediately breathed into thin air. Tourism froze and zeroed right away, and the construction sector entered a strange state: it seems like you can build it and how you need it, but it is unclear to anyone and why, if there are no foreign guests, and the local population, in suspense, prefers to avoid serious expenses. Accordingly, all the sectors associated with tourism and construction plunged into crisis - production, import of building materials, transport, souvenir enterprises, tour agencies and even winemaking.
The government’s announcement of the resumption of foreign tourism on July 1 was a breath of oxygen. The markets immediately noted a massive revival. But the joy did not last long. The government has announced that regular international flights will not be resumed until at least August 1. Thus, not only foreigners, but also their citizens living or staying abroad will not be able to come to Georgia in the coming month.
The authorities are waiting for what position the EU will take regarding the opening of borders and will make decisions in accordance with this. According to the Minister of Economy Natia Turnava, it all depends on the global epidemic situation, which is not stable. “For us, the priority is people's health. Therefore, the resumption of full-scale tourism, we are careful. Separate rules will be developed for business travel and students. We are also waiting for the decision of the EU, which has opened internal borders, but has not yet made a decision on states that are not members of the alliance, ”said Turnava.
The decision to postpone the opening of the tourist season and continue to keep the borders closed caused disappointment for Georgian citizens. Especially those who are stuck abroad and could not use the charter flights organized by the government. Social networks are full of indignant messages that have repeatedly bought and handed in air tickets in the Georgian direction. People complain about the uncertainty that the authorities “exacerbated” with a lengthy statement, indicating only the period by which Georgia will actually remain closed for sure.
The opposition, preparing for the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 31 this year, did not fail to immediately take advantage of public discontent. The real explosion caused the plot of the opposition television channel "Mtavari Archi" ("Main"), dedicated to the epidemic situation in the city of Marneuli. In a broadcast on the opposition television channel, two Marneuli residents allegedly said that the authorities offered their families about $ 3,000 each to agree to indicate coronavirus because of the death of their family members, while in reality they died for another reason. The TV story ended with a pathetic question: why did the authorities need to artificially inflate the statistics of deaths from the coronavirus? The State Security Service (GBS) of Georgia immediately set about checking a provocative plot. The women were summoned for interrogation, during which, according to the statement of the State Security Service, it turned out that they did not say anything like that to the Mtavari Archi journalist. They answered questions in their native Azerbaijani language, and the opposition television channel translated their words into Georgian as it was necessary for fanning the scandal and a blow to the authorities. The statement of the State Security Service states that the plot is based on misinformation, because of which a case was initiated under article 318 of the Criminal Code, which implies sabotage, which is punishable by imprisonment from 2 to 4 years.
Along the way, the authors of posts and comments on social networks that provide “similar stories” with overestimation or underestimation of coronavirus statistics came to the attention of the GBS. Among them were many opposition politicians who drove the wave, NGO staff and journalists. Whether cases against them will be instituted or the State Security Service will be limited to receiving explanations is not yet known.
But the opposition had a good reason to make a fuss about an attack on an independent press, an attempt on freedom of speech and about the authorities’ plans to restore censorship. About responsibility for deliberate misinformation - of course, not a word. Judging by the desire with which Western friends of the Georgian opposition get involved in local political election squabbles, we should expect new letters from congressmen and senators with reminders of democratic values and unequivocal warnings to the ruling “Georgian Dream,” which has failed to seize the initiative in the international arena from the former party in power - the "National Movement".