Amiran Gamkrelidze. (TV Pirveli.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Officials in Georgia are considering a return to tougher Covid-19 restrictions after a sharp rise in new cases, but are likely to wait until after the second round of the local elections on October 30.

Amiran Gamkrelidze, head of the National Center for Disease Control, the key person in managing the pandemic response in the country, said Wednesday he was in favor of imposing restrictions, but did not specify what kind of regulations were in question or whether there would be a full or partial lockdown.

“Expectations are not favorable. Assignments were issued today to prepare a package of further restrictions. I think decisive measures are needed,” Gamkrelidze said on Wednesday.

The last few weeks, the number of new Covid-19 cases has remained consistently high with little letup. The last two days, new cases exceeded 5,000, which is a very high figure for a country of 3.9 million people.

There are about 46,000 active cases at the moment, according to Amiran Gamkrelidze, but the healthcare system is so far not near the breaking point, which is due to an “immunity layer”, the official explained. Approximately one million people in Georgia are vaccinated, and according to recent studies, 42% have contracted the infection, so this immune layer creates some resistance, he said.

“We are monitoring the situation and see how it all develops,” Gamkrelidze said.

For the past two months, the government has refrained from imposing the tough Covid-19 restrictions that were in place earlier. This appears to be a response to the local elections becoming highly competitive because of the unexpected return and imprisonment of the exiled former president Mikheil Saakashvili. The ruling party, Georgian Dream, failed to win in the first round of local elections in Tbilisi and other big cities and faces a serious problem if it loses in the runoffs, which may lead to early general elections and eventually to a change of government.

Therefore, the government is trying to avoid measures like lockdown, which may be unpopular among the population.

Many commentators therefore believe that the government will not bring in tougher restrictions before the election, but wait until after the election with such a controversial decision, if the pandemic continues along the current trajectory.