Covid-19: Bulgaria’s Health Minister restricts fruit and veg and flower markets

Bulgaria’s Health Minister Kiril Ananiev has issued an order restricting the country’s fruit and vegetable and flower markets from April 12 to April 15 inclusive until further notice, according to a notice published on the Health Ministry’s website late on April 11.

The order leaves fruit and vegetable and flower markets closed on Sunday, allows them to re-open from Monday to Wednesday, then closes them again until further notice.

In other words, by date, the complex wording of the order means that fruit and vegetable and flower markets should be closed on April 12. They may re-open from April 13 to 15, provided anti-epidemic measures are observed, and from April 16 must be closed until further notice.

The order comes both in the context of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria, and in the context that April 12 is, for Eastern Orthodox Christians, Palm Sunday, a day of significance for those of that faith when it comes to flowers and willow branches that should, in their tradition, be taken to Bulgarian homes.

While the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has said it would not distribute willow branches, as a measure against crowding at its churches, already on Saturday florists and other less formal sellers, including at markets, had willow branches on sale, drawing queues of buyers intent on observing the ritual linked to Palm Sunday in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

The consequent crowding, and breaches of physical distancing, were a matter of frustration for Bulgaria’s authorities who want the public to observe precautions against the spread of new coronavirus.

On April 11, Sofia municipality and the Bulgarian capital city’s police agreed to shut down the Zhenski Pazar (“Women’s Market”) because managers of the market had failed to enforce anti-epidemic measures against crowding and the obligatory wearing of protective masks by sellers and customers.

The distribution of willow branches on Palm Sunday has ritual significance in the Eastern Orthodox Christian calendar. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, while it has insisted on keeping its houses of worship open for Easter, announced earlier this week that its churches would not be distributing willow branches on Palm Sunday.

Bulgarian National Television reported that Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova had requested stepped-up measures against crowding around the National Palace of Culture after many people gathered in the surrounds of the building.

The warmer spring weather on Saturday lured many residents of Sofia outdoors on Saturday, in spite of the ban on crowds and on visiting public parks and gardens, a ban announced as of March 21 to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

BNT said that in the surrounds of the National Palace of Culture, police put up barriers to block the crowds. Minutes later, the barriers were torn down. But by the afternoon, there were few or no people in the area, the report said.

In central Sofia, however, there were large crowds of people strolling Vitosha Boulevard and Graf Ignatiev Street, the BNT report said.

Fandukova called on the public not to be complacent because of the warm spring weather, and warned that they should not think that the Covid-19 crisis was over.

(Photo: Victor Machado/

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