Businesses appeal to Georgian gov’t to allow online commerce
In order to counter the pandemic, the Georgian government declared a state of emergency on March 30, and on March 31, introduced a curfew and general quarantine – among other measures, online commerce was suspended, except for food and grocery delivery services.
This has turned out to be a massive inconvenience for consumers, and has led to devastating losses for a large number of businesses. Many Georgian residents have switched to remote work, meaning that some of them needed to upgrade their technology to support the shift – from something as small as headphones or video cameras, to an entirely new computer. But doing this proved almost impossible.
Sellers are also stumped. The CEO of Beco, Mehmet Melek, who shut down all stores and offices on March 21, says the government is asking employers to retain their workforce and keep these jobs. But how can they do that if even online commerce, which could help to partially mitigate the effects of the crisis, has been prohibited since March 30?
By 10:00 am on April 2, there were 130 reported cases of coronavirus in Georgia. There are 5,437 people under quarantine, 260 under in-patient surveillance, and 23 patients have recovered.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, in an interview with the TV station Imedi, said that the government has in fact received requests to allow online commerce, and that many of the arguments they present are compelling.
However, later in his speech, it became clear that many of the appeals use frivolous lines of reasoning that he simply can’t accept: “Is the situation really so desperate that you need a new DVD player or cell phone right now, and that you can’t wait a couple more weeks until the restrictions are lifted?!”
The prime minister, reiterating the urgent need to comply with all measures prescribed by the government, promised that all companies which cooperate and comply as much as possible will receive permission for online commerce.
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Georgia declared a state of emergency on March 21 in an attempt to counter the pandemic. On March 23, due to the danger of a large-scale outbreak in the Kvemo Kartli region, the cities of Marneuli and Bolnisi were put on lockdown. The high risk of epidemiological spread led the government to introduce a curfew on March 31 from 21:00 to 6:00 on all Georgian territory.