The response of Amiran Gamkrelidze, Director General of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia to the statement on Georgia’s anti-epidemic policy made by Armenian Health Minister Arsen Torosyan during a meeting with the Public Council on May 22 is being actively discussed in the Armenian online domain.
It should be noted that the Chairman of the Public Council Styopa Safaryan asked the Minister of Health what the reason for the difference between the statistics of Armenia and Georgia on the coronavirus is, and, in particular, why the daily cases in Georgia are incomparably less than in Armenia.
Torosyan mentioned a number of reasons and circumstances, namely, the different methodology for calculating the number of infected people, stricter restrictions, etc. There were also claims on social media that Torosyan questioned Georgia’s full and transparent presentation of the data.
On May 23, Amiran Gamkrelidze’s response to Arsen Torosyan was published. He described the statement of the RA Minister of Health as non-diplomatic, but at the same time questioned the fact that Torosyan could really have said such a thing. “Gamkrelidze does not rule out that the journalists misquoted the minister’s words,” Georgia Online wrote.
It is noteworthy that Torosyan’s extensive response was not fully presented by many websites, often leaving out the part where Torosyan admits that the restrictive measures in Georgia have been stricter.
Below the Fact Investigation Platform presents the Minister’s speech in full to understand what Arsen Torosyan actually said about the coronavirus-related situation in Georgia.
“I do not deny that the restrictions in Georgia are stricter, including to this day. They still have the restrictions in place. Of course, this also leads to consequences, starting from inflation, goods inflation, to inflation of their currency. But there is also a difference in methodology. First of all, the Georgian healthcare system, especially the anti-epidemic system, differs significantly from our system, in a bad sense, in reality. In other words, our anti-epidemic system is better than that of our neighbor Georgia. I am not saying this as something to be proud of, but I am simply recording the fact on a professional level, not a political one. Of course, I hope that our neighbors will all be able to enhance their systems, and we will all be protected. The same goes for the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation. These countries are important to us in the sense that we are becoming very vulnerable in terms of flows.
Second, yes, there is a difference in methodology, including for citizens who are tested in general. There is a difference in the methodology of the tests that they count as a test. To be honest, I don’t have 100% information. I don’t consider it our primary goal, but it is possible, for example, that the 40,000 tests done by Georgia are not all PCR tests, some of them may be rapid tests, which we practically do not use because they are unreliable.”
Torosyan also raises a question about the tested citizens. “Have the citizens with acute respiratory infections who may have had a coronavirus infection but had very mild symptoms, as we now go through, been tested at all, or have they said ‘Dear citizen, you have a light flu, stay home and get well?’ I don’t have the answer to that question. To be honest, I don’t even want to have it, it’s not our problem. I think public figures and the press will have the opportunity to check that.
The same goes for deaths. Is the case of death with a diagnosis of pneumonia, if the patient also has a coronavirus infection, considered a citizen who died of coronavirus or not? In our country he or she is definitely considered such. We register all citizens who have died from coronavirus as citizens who have died from coronavirus. It is only non-coronavirus-related deaths that we record separately, but we do record them.
I must frankly say that I do not know such a level of transparency in any other country.”
Then the Minister added the information he had as someting to ponder on. “I do not say it as an answer, but as a direction that should be studied. When we diagnose those who arrived in Armenia through Georgia, including Georgian drivers, we get positive tests and a very, very large number of them. Now it can be considered that in Georgia, for example, there are 1-2 or 6 cases a day, or it can be considered that not all cases are confirmed and become part of the statistics. I do not know the final answer to that question. Let’s assume that they are really doing that well. Now they are going to open their borders and receive tourists. Will those good results be maintained or not? The answer is obvious, as is the case in almost all the countries. Remaining isolated from both neighboring countries and within the country is impossible. And according to the principle we have adopted, which is the principle to learn, we must learn to live with the coronavirus infection.”
Thus, during the meeting with the Public Council, Arsen Torosyan mainly raised questions about the methodology of the steps taken in the two countries and on the healthcare and anti-epidemic system. In fact, Torosyan raises the question of whether the same tests are used in Georgia, whether all those infected are detected and presented in the statistics.