Lockdown vs re-opening the economy in Georgia
[Note: This blog was originally published in partnership with OC Media on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media.]
As the number of new daily confirmed cases is again on the rise, we look at how people felt about the anti-coronavirus restrictions in May.
Aside from the public health situation, COVID-19 has led to rising unemployment, reduced incomes, and food insecurity in Georgia. As the number of new daily confirmed cases is again on the rise, the Caucasus Datablog takes a look at how people felt about the anti-coronavirus restrictions when they were at their height.
Despite polling from CRRC Georgia’s COVID-19 Monitor surveys showing that the public supported the vast majority of the government’s anti-coronavirus policies, the data also suggests people were eager for the economy to reopen. In fact, a majority said they favoured opening up over a more cautious approach.
CRRC asked the public about the relative importance of caution versus opening up the economy on two surveys conducted between 7–10 May and 14–17 May. Most people agreed with the idea that the economic impacts of COVID-19 were worse than the virus itself and disagreed that it was more important to wait for the virus to be under control than to open the economy.
In addition, the share of Georgians thinking that economic consequences of the virus could be as severe as virus itself also rose from 51% during the 7–10 May period to 64% during the 14–17 May.
The data from the 14–17 May survey was further analysed to explore differences between socio-demographic groups like age, gender, settlement type, education, employment, ethnicity, and household wealth.
This logistic regression showed that people in Tbilisi were less likely to think it was important to wait for COVID-19 to subside before opening up the economy. Older people were also less likely to support waiting for the epidemiological situation to get under control.
When it comes to the economic costs of COVID-19, there were no statistical differences between key socio-demographic variables. During the crisis, large shares were uncertain how long the COVID-19 crisis would last (35% in the 7–10 May period and 42% during the 14–17 May period).
Uncertainty on this question was associated with the idea that the economic costs of the virus could be worse than the virus itself. Controlling for demographic variables from the previous model, those uncertain about the possible period of the crisis were less supportive of the idea that the economic costs of the virus were worse than the virus itself.
Still, a majority of those who were certain or uncertain about the length of the crisis thought that the economic consequences were worse than COVID-19’s health implications.
Overall, the majority of Georgians were supportive of opening up the economy during the COVID-19 crisis, and this support was increasing during the period when the economy was effectively closed.
The negative economic impacts of COVID-19 also gained more public attention during this time.
In general, urban settlements were more supportive of re-starting normal economic activities. Older people were also more prone to agree with opening up.
Besides socio-demographic variables, uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 timeline also shaped public opinions. Uncertain people generally tended to disagree with the idea that the economic costs were harsher than the virus itself.
This article was written by Rati Shubladze. Rati is a policy analyst at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article represent the author’s alone and do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Georgia, or any related entity.
The findings reflect broader global trends which have seen dramatic decreases in air pollution levels in China, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
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The COVID-19 outbreak generated discussion about whether support for democracy would decline during and after the crisis. While reported support increased, this did not necessarily match support for democratic means of governance.
Data from the CRRC’s COVID-19 monitor shows that more people in Georgia reported support for democracy compared to the pre-crisis period. However, as before the crisis, support for democracy does not seem to be grounded in the values commonly associated with democratic governance.
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Data from around the world has shown rallying around the flag effects in many countries during the pandemic, with a few exceptions. Georgia has followed this broader pattern, with performance ratings tripling for many actors and institutions between November/December 2019 and May 2020.
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An NDI and CRRC survey conducted in June 2020 asked questions about people’s beliefs about the origins and spread of coronavirus. The data suggest that while a majority of the population does not believe in common disinformation messages such as a relation between 5G technology and the spread of the coronavirus, only a small portion thinks that coronavirus came about naturally.
In Georgia, it would appear that informing people that others are acting responsibly in the pandemic could in fact lead to the opposite behaviour.
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Since the pandemic hit Georgia in February, the Georgian government has taken several measures to raise awareness about it. But are the public actually well informed?
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In contrast, between 2019 and 2020, the share of people reporting that they were in good health nearly doubled from 35% to 65%.
Prior to the most recent episode in Georgia's political crises, COVID-19 was the country's main concern. Yet, data on how the public views the country's handling of the crisis shows a stark partisan divide.
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COVID-19 restrictions have impacted people’s economic activity heavily. This is reflected in key economic indicators such as GDP, which declined by 5.9% year on year between January and November 2020.
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