The Covid-19 pandemic has been a part of our lives for more than a year now. Would you like to know how life on Caritas Czech Republic’s missions has changed? Georgia is slowly opening up again and getting ready for vaccination. How did the pandemic affect our work?
When the first cases of the Covid-19 disease appeared in the country last year, Georgia introduced strict measures, immediately closed borders and airports and restricted movement within the country. This helped the country to almost avoid the first wave of the pandemic. However, when the restrictions were lifted in the summer, the cases started to grow and Georgia tightened the measures again. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 273,000 people have fallen ill and 3,613 died because of Covid-19.
Today, the situation is improving, and the country is slowly opening up. Caritas Czech Republic has also joined the fight against the pandemic in Georgia. Jan Blinka, head of Caritas’ mission in Georgia, will tell us more about it.
What has changed the most in your work since the beginning of the pandemic?
As elsewhere, huge majority of all our activities and operation has moved to online mode. We work remotely, from home. To ensure the continuation of our projects, it did not constitute any major challenges. We mostly work with state institutions and partner institutions, like local NGOs, universities, and municipalities, and we are providing them with technical assistance. This can easily be done online.
However, in my work as head of mission, a lot has changed. Major part of my work should be meeting people either for networking, fundraising, developing new partnerships, or for monitoring. This is something that cannot be done over the internet.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought various obstacles to the lives of each of us. What problems did Caritas Czech Republic's mission in Georgia face?
Mainly with isolation. Although many activities could have been switched to online mode without any major issues, the impact of the pandemic on social interactions is enormous. We could not meet not only our donors, partners, and beneficiaries, but also our colleagues. And for our work, the inter-personal relations are highly important as they add this specific vibe to all what we do and which cannot be replaced by online communication. However, in last weeks, the situation has been improving, and we are slowly beginning to socialize again.
How did Georgia manage the outbreak of the pandemic?
During all occasions, I have praised the quality of management performed by the Government of Georgia. May be they have problems in communication of certain issues, as we can see in other countries, but as I don't follow Georgian-language news, I cannot say anything about it. I see only that the number of cases is rather limited and managed well. Now, the epidemiological situation has been improving already for several weeks and thanks to this some of the regulations were even lifted.
I have always said that I would rather spend pandemic in Georgia than in the Czech Republic. Although we surely have the regulations in place, the scope of the pandemic was never that severe as in the Czech Republic. The weather, which is warmer than in Czechia, also helps to keep better mood. And despite all the restrictions, we still can enjoy some perks of normal life – like trips to nature, hiking in enormously beautiful mountains, or even swimming in the sea during last summer.
How does life in Georgia look like now?
Nowadays, shops and schools are slowly opening up, as are the country’s borders. The restaurants initially offered outside seating, now it’s possible to sit inside as well. We still have and will continue to have curfew from 9 PM to 5 AM. We also still have to wear face masks not only inside but also outside in public places.
How did the pandemic affect the people Caritas CR helps in Georgia?
This is difficult to say as we mostly don't work directly with our final beneficiaries, but provide technical assistance to institutions and partners in Georgia. But it is evident that the living situation of many people in Georgia has worsened, mainly for financial but also for health reasons. In such situation, those who were marginalized and vulnerable before the pandemic, are even more vulnerable and more disadvantaged today. The income of many people in Georgia has dropped significantly. Their health also deteriorated, not only due to the shift of attention of the entire health care system almost exclusively to Covid-19, neglecting prevention and treatment of other diseases, but also the mental health of the population worsens.
Caritas has also been involved in helping to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Georgia. What does this help look like?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been very active in responding to imminent needs. We have tailored our projects to tackle some of the most pressing issues in the health sector. For example, we provided trainings on distant management of Covid-19 cases to rural doctors. We also provided necessary medical equipment to rural ambulatories as well as to the boarding homes for persons with disabilities and children under state care. Moreover, we focused on awareness-raising campaigns.
We have worked on IT solutions to better manage the pandemic in Georgia and created the Covid Lab system for sharing epidemiological information. Currently we are working on the development of a Covid-19 vaccination system.
Has vaccination against Covid-19 already begun in Georgia?
Vaccination in the country has not yet begun, but should start during the month of March. However the plans are not clear yet.
What surprised you the most about the pandemic in Georgia?
How well it is managed from the side of Georgian state, and how efficient Georgian state is in implementing online and IT tools for managing the pandemic. For our part, it was the flexibility with which we were able to respond to newly occurred needs. Despite all the challenges, Caritas has had a very successful year in Georgia. We have started several new projects, established new partnerships with donors and tailored out ongoing projects to respond to the new pandemic reality.
This would not be possible without the commitment of my colleagues, without their dedication, personal involvement, their knowledge, skills and networks. For this, I would like to thank all my colleagues very much. We have a really great and professional team in Georgia.
Caritas Czech Republic has been helping to improve the health care system in Georgia for a long time and works closely with the Georgian Ministry of Health. The fight against the Covid-19 pandemic became one of Caritas' main activities in Georgia last year, and we will continue to focus on it this year as well.
Are u interested in how the life on a mission looks like during the coronavirus pandemic? We have already published an interview about the situation in Mongolia. In the following article, you will find out how Zambia coped with the pandemic.