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.
Facebook is an important part of Georgian politics. Political campaigns are fought, and public opinion thought to often be formed on the platform...
As Easter celebrations approach in Georgia, a study by CRRC Georgia suggests that a large number of Georgia’s Orthodox Christians still intend to celebrate at Church. The survey of Facebook users found that around 40% of people who usually celebrate Easter in Church intended to do so again this year despite the pandemic.
Without trust in the messages of public health officials, measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus are less likely to be complied with, exacerbating the spread of the virus.
Many experts believe that to fully remove the restrictions which have emerged because of the COVID-19 crisis, a vaccine is needed. While vaccines are only expected in the medium term, if and when they are available, Georgia may face large challenges with implementing a large scale vaccination program.
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.
In times of crisis, support for governments often rises in what is known as a rallying around the flag effect. The COVID-19 crisis in Georgia has been no exception.
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.
Georgia has postponed the reopening of schools in major cities due to a new surge in the pandemic, but what are the biggest concerns Georgians have with the education system?
Georgia’s new academic year started on 15 September, but physical attendance at schools and universities in major cities has been postponed until 1 October.
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.
Communications have been critical to attempts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 globally, and it is unclear what the best strategy for doing so might be. In Georgia, it would appear that informing people that others are acting responsibly in the pandemic could in fact lead to the opposite behaviour.
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?
Since March 2020, the Georgian Government has been conducting large scale information campaigns through traditional and online media, has launched an informational web portal, StopCov.ge, and has even launched a smartphone app providing information about contact with infected people.
The pandemic has clearly harmed people’s health, yet new data from the Caucasus Barometer Survey suggests that people considered themselves more healthy in 2020.
In 2019, 35% of the public evaluated their health as good. In past years, this had shifted up and down to varying extents, however, the largest change was a decline from 41% to 30% between 2013 and 2014.
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.
It has been a year since the first case of coronavirus was detected in Georgia. Since then, over 260,000 cases have been confirmed, over 3,300 fatalities, and the economy has suffered the largest decline since 1994. In light of this, how does the Georgian public assess the country’s handling of the pandemic?
Data from the 2020 Caucasus Barometer survey offers a snapshot of how well people think the country did in dealing with the outbreak.
With the pandemic still raging and accompanying economic restrictions still in force, Georgians are unsurprisingly pessimistic about their economic future. This holds true especially for supporters of the opposition United National Movement Party, above all other party supporters.
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.
It is also reflected in employment, with fewer people reporting starting new jobs and more people reporting having lost one, according to the 2020 Caucasus Barometer.
Unemployment remains one of the most frequently cited concerns among Georgians. But how satisfied with their jobs are those who are employed?
Public opinion polling consistently shows that the most important issue facing the country is unemployment. While official data suggests an unemployment rate of around 17%, Caucasus barometer survey data suggests that only 40% consider themselves employed.
While unemployment is clearly an issue, a secondary point is the quality of jobs available: a third of the unemployed (36%) reported that they do not work because available jobs do not pay enough, and 61% reported that suitable work is hard to find on a 2018 survey.
While Georgia’s healthcare system has faced significant challenges as a result of the pandemic, just under half of Georgians consider an issue related to COVID-19 to be among the main challenges facing the country’s healthcare system with medicine prices remaining a big worry, polling suggests.
In the December 2020 NDI and CRRC-Georgia survey, respondents were asked what the largest issue facing the healthcare system was. They were allowed to name up to three issues. The most commonly named issues were the cost of medicine (46%), access to hospitals due to COVID-19 issues (16%), and other COVID-19 related issues (25%).
It’s been over a year since the first coronavirus case was recorded in Georgia, and attitudes towards the pandemic have continued to change.
CRRC Georgia’s Omnibus survey has tracked attitudes towards the COVID-19 pandemic since April 2020. Data from the most recent wave of the survey, in January, suggest that Georgians increasingly believe that the worst is already behind us.
In April 2020, Georgia had low COVID-19 case counts. Given this as well as the difficult situations in other countries, it is perhaps unsurprising that 45% of the public believed that the worst of the virus was yet to come. At the same time, 26% thought that the virus would not be a major problem, and 14% thought that the worst had already passed.
With two kinds of vaccines against COVID-19 already available in Georgia, the public’s attitude towards vaccination is becoming more and more important. So why are Georgians so sceptical of coronavirus vaccination?
While willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was not high even in June or December 2020, it is logical to suppose that hesitation would only have increased after the unfortunate case of a young nurse passing away shortly after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on 18 March.
As the data from February 2021 CRRC/NDI survey shows, even before this incident, in February, only around a third of Georgians were willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with the largest concern being related to the quality of the vaccine.