Good news amidst persistently high incidence of Covid-19: the effective reproduction number R dropped to 1.04 (+-0.02) in Georgia even before new lockdown measures were introduced last week. This bodes well for the effectiveness of the current interventions.
According to these estimates, in the second half of November the average Covid-19 infected person in Georgia transmitted the virus to 1.04 people. Regional estimates vary between 0.90 (+-0.06) in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and 1.22 (+-0.09) in Kakheti. This is significantly down from around 1.3 nationally, and from over 1.5 in many regions, in the first half of October.
On 28 October I gave an interview on formula TV‘s „business formula“ programme about how to interpret numbers and data around the coronavirus pandemic. It was aired last Tuesday, 3 November. Since it is difficult for a five-minute-long TV edit to do justice to the complexity of the topic, I am going to share a more complete version of the conversation I had with Nino Kvintradze. We touched on a number of topics that I have not yet written about on this blog. Most of it is still very relevant today, and I hope it will stimulate some discussion.
The second half of October has seen average movement range drop a bit across most parts of the country. However, relative mobility in Georgian cities remains higher than in most European cities with similar Covid-19 incidence.
In a blog post ten days ago, I pointed out the continuously high levels of mobility observed in many parts of the country despite the ongoing pandemic. This cast doubt on whether it was possible to manage the coronavirus spread without imposing additional restrictions.
Within a single month, Georgia has gone from international Covid model country to high risk zone. The government has adopted a more relaxed approach than in spring, relying on cititzen’s cooperation rather than draconian lockdowns. But mobility data indicates that the eastern half of the country has been slow to adapt to the return of the pandemic.
New confirmed cases have reached a record 1351 on Wednesday, while the death toll rose to 172. Already on Sunday, Department Head Marina Endeladze from the Tbilisi Infectious Disease Hospital called the situation „alarming“.
As of Wednesday, average incidence per 100‘000 inhabitants in two weeks stands at 308 cases for the whole country, 12 times the EU green zone limit. Top of the regional incidence list is still Adjara with 1002 cases, followed by Imereti with 455 and Tbilisi with 349 cases.
After a heavily suppressed coronavirus wave in spring, Georgia now faces its first major outbreak under normalised conditions. Its status as an international Covid-19 success story is being put to the challenge.
Following a superspreading event two weeks ago in a cake shop in Batumi, a major holiday hotspot, the virus has quickly popped up in other major cities of the country. Daily new cases have increased exponentially from less than 10 in August to almost 196 today (September 16).
During the first two weeks of September, the number of new cases doubled almost every 3 days, a growth rate seen in March in Western European countries and the US.
Georgia is tightening the coronavirus testing net, looking to join international top tier in key metric.
In a recent piece, I looked at how the Covid-19 outbreak in Georgia has left the trajectory of exponential growth and might have already surpassed its peak. These considerations are all based on the publicly available figures of confirmed cases. What I did not discuss much, however, is the reliability of those figures.
It has been suspected for a while that the number of actual coronavirus infections in most countries is significantly higher than the number of confirmed cases. Studies from the US, Germany and Brasil point to the conclusion that these countries likely had on the order of 10 times as many infections as were officially reported.
After weeks of talk about reaching the „peak“ of the Covid-19 epidemic, Georgia has started to relax restrictions on public life. Has the country conquered the epidemic? What can be expected from the months to come?
Easter celebrations have passed without a spike in new cases, and last week‘s lifting of the car travel ban was the government‘s first step in their 3-months plan of returning to normalcy. However, a certain fatigue with lockdown measures is palpable, and recent farmer‘s protests show the economic costs of the emergency measures are increasingly hard to bear for many Georgians.
With easter celebrations in Georgia in full swing, many wonder if the insistence of the church on holding services might lead to an explosion of infections in the upcoming days and weeks.
There is ample precedent in order for such fears to be justified. Religious mass gatherings have already caused considerable spread of Covid-19 in other countries. Here is a (by no means exhaustive) list of such events and their consequences:
As Covid-19 infections in Georgia continue to grow slowly but steadily, it is time to take a closer look at how this development compares with the outbreaks in other countries. While Georgia is on the same trajectory as Japan, it currently falls short of the benchmark set by some other wealthy east Asian countries.
The first cases in Georgia were confirmed around the same time as in many European countries. Yet, the virus has so far spread considerably less than in most of the Western world.
As the number of fatalities due to the Coronavirus pandemic rises worldwide (over 50 thousand as of April 2, and doubling every 5.5 days), more discussions focus on the different scenarios countries are going to face in the coming weeks and months.
Up until now Georgia’s place in these discussions was limited to local and international praise for its effective handling of the situation with zero fatalities (as of April 2) and moderate increase of cases compared to most European countries. At the very least, Georgia has been able to buy itself valuable time to prepare for what is still to come.