Georgia started seeing its first cases of coronavirus at the beginning of March. The country announced a monthlong state of emergency on March 21 to prevent the spread of the virus and is considering an extension.
The numbers of sick people are not high yet but it is expected to get worse. The Georgian government has locked down four main cities to control the spread of the coronavirus: Tbilisi, Rustavi, Batumi, and Kutaisi.
As of April 16, the official number of infected people in Georgia was slightly over 300, with at least three deaths. Quarantine measures in Georgia include a nightly curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than three people in public. People are permitted to leave their homes only for essential shopping and there is a stay-at-home order for all citizens without a special permit.
Locked inside his home, famous stencil-graffiti artist Giorgi Gagoshvili tries to find inspiration in hard times like this.
"Even before the situation escalated, I was trying to somehow lighten the mood of people at my work, trying to show the positive sides," Gagoshvili told RFE/RL. In his recent work he reflects on the changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to people's lives.
Giorgi Gagoshvili says that before the situation with the coronavirus escalated, he managed to make a few stencils and a couple of animations. "In general, I have little fun at home. I mostly draw, watch different videos, and read. Now, I have a lot of time, so I try to read more. It's a good opportunity for self-development, but in general it's quite boring to stay at home for me."
The artist says that the current situation has affected him a lot. "Naturally, I consider myself a very socially active person. I have many friends, and I really like spending time with them. I miss the times when I did not have to think about the virus. All of this online communication and chats are not the same for me," he said.
"But this is not the worst thing. Now we have to leave our homes as little as possible. Let's give doctors a chance to cope with the treatment of those patients who are now in hospitals," he said. "We don’t have the luxury of everyone getting sick and still receiving the proper treatment from the doctors."
"Now, I’m working on a stencil inscription with a funny phrase to lift the mood of people who read it. It's already getting harder to work on the streets now. The problem is that I have to work alone and that my friends cannot help me," Gagoshvilli explained.
"I mostly communicate with friends and family in online chats, on Facebook, probably like everybody does now. Everyone’s mood is now far from good, but everyone still shares positive feelings and their hope that everything will soon fall into place. And indeed, I also believe that if we all try our best and not leave our homes, the situation will improve much faster and the spread of virus will stop."
In his previous works Gagoshvili often touched on social and political issues, as well as environmental ones, such as the air pollution.
When asked what he would do first when the quarantine ends, Gagoshvili said: "I would probably see all of my friends and continue to work on those projects that had to be suspended. And so that this situation changes quickly, I would like to wish people to be patient. Let's stay at home in order to stop this virus."