Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry will set up checkpoints at entrances to and exits from major cities to ensure compliance with restrictions on intercity travel that take effect at midnight on March 20.
The restrictions apply to all regional centres, meaning capital cities of Bulgaria’s 28 districts.
People will be allowed to travel only if this is essential; if for work reasons, then they must show an annual payment statement from their employer, as proof; if for health reasons, a medical document, and if returning to their home, must show an identity document as proof of residential address.
Other measures, ordered by Health Minister Kiril Ananiev, include a ban on visits to parks, city gardens, playgrounds, sports grounds, outdoor and indoor public places.
Responding to a question by a reporter, Ananiev said that people would be allowed to enter parks to walk their dogs, but must not do so in groups and no crowding would be tolerated.
Also as of March 21, people younger than 60 will be forbidden from visiting grocery stores and pharmacies between 8.30am and 10.30am.
Crisis staff chief Major-General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski said that the major supermarkets had given their full co-operation and assurance that during this period, they would serve the elderly in the fastest manner possible.
Ananiev told the briefing that the new measures would remain in effect until further notice. They would be in force until the current scheduled date for the State of Emergency to end, April 13, but could be extended. For now, after a few days, it would be assessed how they were working. If they were not complied with, even stricter measures would be applied.
Interior Minister Mladen Marinov recommended that within two days, people arrange the documents they would need to show to enable them to be allowed to travel between cities, including the proof of their place of employment.
Asked whether people would be allowed to travel to holiday and second homes, Mutafchiyski said that anyone doing so was being irresponsible.
Mutachiyski said, in reply to a question, that the matter of whether churches would be closed was for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod.
Ananiev said the idea of these restrictions was not to interfere with business. Lorries that transport food, medicines, and post will not be stopped and restricted.
“We do not want to impede business, especially those who supply essential goods and services,” Ananiev said.
Replying to a question, he said that courier services could continue to operate, as delivering to addresses was their normal business.
Mutafchiyski told the briefing that the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 Bulgaria had increased by 17 since the morning, to a total of 129. This total includes the three elderly people who died in the period between March 11 and 19.
Following treatment, one patient who had been confirmed as positive for Covid-19 had now shown negative in two consecutive tests. The patient was the doctor who had returned to Bulgaria after attending congresses in Spain and the UK.
In other developments related to Covid-19 in Bulgaria on March 20, an exercise was held involving a scenario in which the Arena Armeec hall in Sofia was transformed into a field hospital. The exercise was ordered by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and observed by the national crisis staff.
On Friday afternoon, Bulgaria’s National Assembly was debating and voting on the second reading of the Emergency Measures Bill, including amendments to the version that earlier this week was approved at first reading.
A large number of flights that were scheduled to depart from or arrive at Sofia Airport on March 21 have been cancelled, according to the airport’s website, which has flight information in English.
For the rest of The Sofia Globe’s continuing coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria, please click here.
(Archive photo of Zaimov Park in Sofia: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)