Georgia Declares State of Emergency to Halt Coronavirus Spread

On March 21, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili declared a nationwide state of emergency effective until April 21. According to Zurabishvili, the extraordinary decision is aimed at “protecting the public health and reducing the looming threat.” The President stated she had made the decision in response to the Prime Minister’s appeal and based upon the article 71 of the constitution. 

President Zurabishvili underlined that the state of emergency did not extend to restricting the freedoms of expression and free media so that “the media outlets would inform the public unhindered.” President’s decree does not envisage enacting nationwide quarantine or curfews.

President’s declaration came after an appeal by Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia an hour before. Following a meeting of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council on Coronavirus, a government task force, the Prime Minister has publicly addressed the nation’s President asking to declare a month-long state of emergency.

“An increase in confirmed cases and rapidly growing figure of people kept in quarantine indicate that the country has moved to a different stage of the spread of the virus, that of a community transmission. [Tackling] this will require additional and emergency measures from the government, business and entire society,” said Gakharia.

As stated by the Prime Minister, declaring the state of emergency will grant the government following emergency powers:

  • A person violating the protocol of mandatory self-isolation or quarantine will be transferred to quarantine zones by force of law;
  • Restrictions on international air/maritime/land travel (excluding freight transport);
  • Public services will be delivered according to emergency regulations and terms for state administrative work will be modified;
  • The government is empowered, if necessary, to restrict private ownership rights for quarantine, self-isolation or other medical purposes. The government will be able to commandeer property and material resources of natural and legal persons when the need arises;
  • Gathering of more than 10 people will be banned;
  • The government will be entitled to intervene in the management of businesses and private companies to restrict their service or instruct them to carry out specific tasks;
  • The government will be able to cap prices on the products of basic consumption, drugs and medical service;
  • The government will be empowered to modify rules prescribed by the Georgia Law on Education and, if necessary, mobilize the workforce of relevant medical education and practice;
  • Litigation could be conducted remotely.

According to paragraph 2 of article 71 of the constitution, in cases of “mass unrest, violation of the country’s territorial integrity, a military coup d’état, armed insurrection, a terrorist act, natural or technogenic disasters or epidemics, or any other situation in which state bodies lack the capacity to fulfill their constitutional duties normally, the President of Georgia shall, upon recommendation by the Prime Minister, declare a state of emergency across the entire territory of the country or in any part of it, and shall immediately present this decision to Parliament for approval.”

The decision takes effect immediately upon the announcement of the state of emergency. The Parliament approves the decision upon its assembly. If Parliament does not approve the decision following a vote, it shall become null and void. Emergency powers shall only apply to the territory for which the state of emergency is declared.

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