As Bulgarians joined the global trend for panic-buying in the face of the Covid-19 new coronavirus, Agriculture Minister Dessislava Taneva issued an assurance that the country has enough food to last it for years.
The panic-buying began soon after Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted a State of Emergency for a month, to April 13, to enable new measures to deal with Covid-19.
Taneva said that Bulgaria’s food production satisfies domestic consumption in terms of volume, even if there is no harvest. The country’s food industry was growing in volume and diversity, she said.
There was enough wheat in stock to last a year, more than two million tons of maize were in stock, while cooking oil plants had raw material to last three months, and in the latter case, only half of that would be needed for domestic consumption.
Representatives of Bulgaria’s bread industry said that they had raw materials to last for two years. The Union of Milk Processors said that there was no shortage of dairy.
There were several other developments related to the coronavirus situation and the State of Emergency in the second half of the afternoon of March 13.
In Parliament, the legal affairs committee agreed to amend the Criminal Code’s provisions regarding the spread of a contagious disease.
Breaking the law in this respect, should the National Assembly give its final approval, would mean that those who violate their quarantine would face up to three years in prison and a fine from 1000 to 10 000 leva (about 500 to 5000 euro).
Should such an act be committed during an epidemic, pandemic or a State of Emergency related to deaths from disease, the prison sentence jumps to five years and a fine of 10 000 to 50 000 leva, according to the draft amendments.
Bulgaria’s electronic banking system temporarily had the collywobbles because of panic-buying, but recovered within a few hours, according to a report by Bulgarian National Radio. The stress on the system caused by the public rushing to buy basic foodstuffs led to the electronic payment system either refusing card payments or responding only after a long delay.
Separately, in an official statement on March 13, the Association of Bulgarian Banks said that customer service at bank branches would continue as normal, with compliance with recommendations for increased hygiene and security for both staff and customers. Customers could use digital banking services if they did not want to visit bank branches, the association said.
The leadership of Bulgaria’s Muslim minority said that it was suspending lectures and theological training in mosques, while calling on people to pray at home. It distributed Koran quotations on the advisability of quarantine in the event of an epidemic. The leadership of the Sofia Central Synagogue said that the Synagogue was closed to tourists until further notice and prayer services had been suspended, with the agreement of the Chief Rabbi of Israel. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, to which the majority of Bulgarians claim adherence, said earlier this week that churches would remain open and Easter observances would continue as normal.
On the afternoon of March 13, head of state President Roumen Radev let it be known that no one had consulted him about declaring a State of Emergency. The declaration was approved unanimously by all parties in Parliament, at the proposal of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government. Bulgaria’s constitution entitles two institutions to propose parliamentary approval of a State of Emergency – the Cabinet, and the President.
(Photo: Andreas Krappweis/sxc.hu)