Meeting the Coronavirus Challenge

Meeting the Coronavirus Challenge

How do Georgians feel about their government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic?  In short, do they approve?  From 14-19 May Georgian Opinion Research Business International (GORBI) asked 1,090 residents across the country “do you think the reaction of Georgia's government to the current coronavirus outbreak is appropriate, too extreme, or not sufficient?”  This is how they answered:

Figure 1: Public perception of the Georgian Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic

Source: GORBI, 2020 May, nationwide survey in Georgia. (n=1,090 adult respondents)

An estimated 73% of the Georgian population feels that the government’s response has been appropriate, and those who disagree are almost evenly split between believing that the response has not been sufficient and believing that it has been too extreme.  When comparing Georgia’s performance to that of other countries, respondents were even more positive.  They were also asked “do you think Georgia is handling the coronavirus better than or worse than other countries, or is Georgia doing about the same as most other countries?”

Figure 2: Public perception of Georgia’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic

Source: GORBI, 2020 May, nationwide survey in Georgia. (n=1,090 adult respondents)

Nearly 90% of the population feels that Georgia’s handling of the crisis has been superior to that in other countries.  But does public opinion reflect reality?  Is Georgia actually handling this crisis better than others?  Thanks to the database maintained by Johns Hopkins University in the United States, we can answer this question objectively.  We can compare the number of infections per 100,000 people between countries in the region.  All of these countries saw their first reported cases of the coronavirus in late February or early March, and thus we might expect infection rates to be similar.  In fact, they vary dramatically. 

Figure 3: Infection rates in Georgia and in other countries in the region

Source:  Johns Hopkins University, 2020 May

While as of 22 May Russia has had more than 220 cases per 100,000 residents, Georgia has had less than 20.  It appears that effective actions were taken early, and that the country has been spared the worst of the pandemic.  And this fact has been recognized, both by the WHO[i] and by the international media.  Georgia is cited as an example of a country that is successfully “flattening the curve,” i.e. slowing down the rate of coronavirus transmission to the point where their healthcare system is not overwhelmed.[ii]  But where is Georgia currently?  What does the country’s curve look like?

Figure 4: The pattern of infection rates in Georgia

Source:  Johns Hopkins University, 2020 May

It appears that the easing of the prohibition on all travel after 26 April produced a slight increase in the number of new confirmed cases, but not a second spike.  It will be critical, however, to continue to follow this trend as businesses reopen, and even more critical when borders reopen this summer.  The following figure shows the ten most frequent visitors to Georgia by country of origin:

Figure 5: The most frequent visitors to Georgia

Source:  Georgian National Tourism Administration, 2020 May

In 2019 residents of the four countries with whom Georgia shares a border made more than five million combined trips to the country.Israel, the country from which it has been announced that tourism will resume first,[iii] has a current infection rate of 193 persons per 100,000.  This is slightly greater than that of Turkey, and slightly less than that of Armenia. 

It’s hardly news that Georgia has benefited tremendously from the development of international tourism.  It’s also no secret that many Georgians still had very little disposable income even before the coronavirus pandemic.  Those realities combined with the finding in GORBI’s recent survey that an estimated 63% of the country’s population has lost a significant part of their income during the crisis, means that pressure to encourage tourism will only grow as the season commences.  However, while we want tourists to resume visiting Georgia and to leave their dollars behind, we don’t want them to leave behind new cases of the coronavirus.

GORBI is an exclusive member of the Gallup International research network and has more than two decades of experience in survey research.  The firm temporarily halted face-to-face surveys with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, and has developed a telephone panel.  As telephone penetration in the country is very uneven, panel members were not recruited using random digit dialing.  Instead GORBI utilized the contact information collected from previous face-to-face survey respondents for quality control.  The panel is balanced by region, urban/rural status, age, and gender, and survey weights are also calibrated for level of education and past vote.  (gorbi.com)

Author: The FINANCIAL

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