The Government of Georgia must substantiate any restrictions imposed for the prevention of the Corona virus in order to inform and avoid confusion of the public
Recently, the Georgian government has gradually tightened restrictions with a view to fighting the Corona virus. The restrictions affect many areas of life and, naturally, have a severe impact on the country's economy and social situation. As a result, a number of questions have emerged in the society regarding the need for this or that restriction as the Government has not provided publicly any justification for the imposed measures. Moreover, no explanatory notes with the substantiation attached to government decrees imposing the constraints have been available to the public yet.
Preventing the spread of the virus in a democratic society is a justified, necessary and therefore legitimate goal. Yet, all restrictions introduced to achieve this goal must be absolutely necessary and proportionate.
The list of restrictions includes several limitations that raise a number of questions for a large part of the public about their appropriateness and relevance in the fight against the virus. For example, limiting freedom of movement for a certain period of time increases the risk of gathering a large number of crowds in grocery stores during the permitted hours; or the obligation to wear a facemask, for example in a park or elsewhere- unless there are people present, there is no threat to the spread of the virus- so this raises a question as to the need for the limitation, etc.
Insufficient information provided on the necessity for the restrictions leads to resistance from members of the public, and a tendency to break the rules, which in itself has a negative impact on public health. Therefore, the obligation of the government to communicate to the public concerning each measure introduced is not only open and transparent governance but also directly related to virus prevention.
Due to the current political and legal situation in Georgia, where the newly elected Parliament has not been yet convened and is not exercising its powers, the Government of Georgia remains on its own, beyond the control; consequently, the risk of arbitrariness in the exercise of their powers is much higher. This is added up by the crisis in the country caused by the pandemic and the accompanying difficult economic havoc and social situation.
Due to the above circumstances, and especially in the conditions of having the government acting without parliamentary oversight, the government is required to be more accountable and open to the public. Any decision made by the government should be clear and transparent to the public to the maximum extent possible.
The government’s direct communication with the public in the given situation may offset the risk of arbitrariness to a certain degree. All decisions made by the government must be substantiated and communicated to the public, and the requirement to provide a justification will contribute to making relevant and proportionate decisions.
“The Democracy Index – Georgia” calls on the government to substantiate all restrictions introduced for the prevention of the spread of the Corona virus in all directions; provide the explanations concerning the direct link of the restrictions to the prevention of the virus and publish them in a publicly accessible form - via the Internet.