This week, Coronavirus cases in Georgia hit an anti-record, with up to 17,500 new cases seen daily.
Capital Tbilisi, along with the Adjara and Imereti regions, are the hotspots of the rapid virus spread.
On January 23, Tbilisi’s renowned Gold Market was closed after a rise in employee Covid-19 cases and exposure. The Market’s doors are expected to remain shut until February 1.
Georgia reported 15,762 coronavirus cases, 5160 recoveries, and 42 deaths on Tuesday. Tbilisi recorded the highest number of 8357 Covid-19 cases, followed by the Imereti region with 1907 cases, and the Adjara region with 1608 cases.
The country reported 17,530 new cases, 5087 recoveries, and 39 deaths on Wednesday. Tbilisi recorded 9487 cases, followed by Imereti with 1990 cases, and Adjara with 1958 cases.
Georgia reported 17,484 coronavirus cases, 3699 recoveries, and 27 deaths on Thursday. Tbilisi recorded the highest number of 8989 Covid-19 cases within 24 hours, followed by the Adjara region with 2255 cases, and the Imereti region with 2222 cases.
Georgians, in an NDI poll carried out mid-December, praised the government for doing a good job handling the pandemic (50%). What remains alarming, the NDI reports, is the high level of vaccine hesitancy: 42% said they would not get vaccinated; 29% said they are already vaccinated, 25% said they intend to get a vaccine. Against this background, the Georgian authorities are trying to increase the vaccination rate, this week announcing that citizens over 50 who get Covid-19 booster shots will be gifted 100 GEL.
Head of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC), Amiran Gamkrelidze, said that Omicron strain coronavirus cases were expected to increase in the next fortnight, and that, currently, 90% of confirmed cases are of the Omicron strain.
He highlighted that of 1600 confirmed Omicron cases, only 16 patients required hospitalization. The majority of the infected patients were said to be young.
The Minister of Refugees, Labor, Health and Social Affairs, Zurab Azarashvili stated that in the last two weeks, an average of 4300 to 4500 hospital beds have been occupied.
“With Omicron, there is no hospitalization, and the hospitalization rate has reduced from 20% to 4.5%.”
The minister noted there are more than 500,000 doses of Pfizer left in the country, as well as another million and a half doses of other vaccines. He recognized that they need to work more in this direction.
“In regions where vaccination has been less available, 30 to 40 mobile groups will go and offer vaccination on the spot, simultaneously. We are also launching a communication campaign on vaccination and explaining the benefits of immunization. We have also started incentive measures. With all this, we think we will be able to use up the existing 500,000 doses of Pfizer,” he said.
This week, it was also announced that untested individuals who had had symptoms and were monitored by a GP will receive green passports and be registered on the coronavirus database.
“The Ministry issued the relevant normative act – if a person was not tested but had symptoms and contacted 112, and had contact with the family doctor and was under supervision for a certain period, this will be reflected in the database for them to get a green passport,” Azarashvili announced.
Global health experts have said at least five to six billion doses are needed by poorer countries to help protect them against Coronavirus amid the ongoing pandemic.
Importantly, Pfizer and BioNTech have started clinical trials of a new Covid vaccine which targets the Omicron variant. Based on the same source, the companies plan to test the protection gained from the new vaccine as a booster jab, and as three separate jabs in unvaccinated people.
More than 1400 adults are expected to be enrolled in the trial, which is likely to be run in the United States.
US company Moderna is planning to begin trials of its own Omicron-specific shot soon, while Oxford University and AstraZeneca have also started working on a new version of their vaccine.
The Cases Worldwide
As of Wednesday evening, more than 361.4 million cases of Covid-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.6 million.
Germany is finding itself divided over Covid, with the unvaccinated banned from restaurants, non-essential shops, leisure and arts facilities, and where politicians are considering compulsory vaccination.
German Covid protests have been turning nasty in the row over rules and vaccinations, the BBC reported this week. It noted that some of the biggest protests this month have been in eastern Germany and that every week, tens of thousands of Germans take to the streets to demonstrate against the restrictions and vaccination.
“Many protests are peaceful, but others explode into violence, and experts are increasingly worried by the aggressive language and threats aimed at politicians and public figures online,” the BBC wrote.
In England and Scotland, from February 11, Covid travel tests are to be axed for the fully vaccinated. People arriving in England or Scotland from abroad will no longer have to take Covid tests if they are fully vaccinated, it has been confirmed.
Rules have also been eased for unvaccinated travellers, who will no longer have to take a “day eight” test or self-isolate. However, they will still need pre-departure and “day two” tests.
Most coronavirus restrictions are being lifted in England after the government said its vaccine booster rollout had successfully reduced serious illness and Covid-19 hospitalizations, reported CBC News.
According to the same source, face coverings are no longer required by law anywhere in England, and a legal requirement for Covid-19 passes for entry into nightclubs and other large venues has been scrapped.
Austria’s lockdown for people not fully vaccinated will end on Monday because the pressure on hospitals has eased, the government said.
Russia has expanded a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine for children aged 12-17 to include more regions, amid the country’s biggest infection surge yet due to the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
By Ana Dumbadze