Eight hundred cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Bulgaria, the national operational headquarters said in a 5pm update on April 16, the eve of the country’s four-day public holiday to mark the Orthodox Christian Easter.
A 64-year-old man, who had tested positive for Covid-19 while also suffering other serious illness, died on April 16, bringing Bulgaria’s total number of deaths in March and so far in April to 38.
There are 227 patients who tested positive for Covid-19 being treated in hospital, 37 of them in intensive care.
There is considerable concern about the risk from people travelling, socialising and attending Bulgarian Orthodox Church Easter services over the long weekend. The country’s Prime Minister, operational HQ and Interior Ministry repeatedly have called on people not to travel, not to gather in large groups and not to attend church services.
On the late afternoon of April 16, Bulgarian National Radio reported that large queues of cars had formed at the exits from Sofia to the Trakiya and Hemus motorways, as well as at other checkpoints, in spite of the calls by the Interior Ministry to people not to embark on intercity travel.
Most of the motorists presented declarations, telling police that they were travelling for essential reasons. It earlier emerged that a large number of declarations that people had submitted in recent days, claiming to be travelling for work reasons, were untrue. Many of those making the claim had no labour contracts while some were registered as unemployed.
Bulgaria’s authorities have emphasised that given the four-day public holiday, those seeking to pass the checkpoints claiming that they are doing so for work reasons will not be allowed through.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on April 16 that it was too early to think about lifting or easing the restrictive measures to prevent the spread of new coronavirus.
Most people were keeping to the restrictions, he said.
“A difficult Easter, but we are the only ones in the world who have not shut the churches,” Borissov said.
Bulgaria’s National Assembly will hold a special sitting on the afternoon of April 21 to hear Borissov on the effectiveness of the health, economic and social measures taken in the country in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Bulgarian Development Bank said on April 16 that 12 commercial banks had expressed willingness to take part in the initiative to provide interest-free loans of up to 4500 leva to people unable to work because of the Covid-19 pandemic – employees on unpaid leave and the self-employed.
The banks are Allianz Bank, DSK Bank, Investbank, International Asset Bank, UBB, Municipal Bank, First Investment Bank, Raiffeisen Bank, Commercial Bank D, UniCredit Bulbank, Central Cooperative Bank and Eurobank Bulgaria.
Bulgarian Development Bank and the participating credit institutions are working hard (including on holidays and weekends) to conclude financial agreements, as well as to create the necessary organisation in the branch networks of the banks, it said.
The beneficiary eligibility criteria for the interest-free loans may be read, in English, on the website of the Bulgarian Development Bank.
Bulgarian state railways BDZ has cancelled 39 trains from April 17 to 20 inclusive because of the anti-epidemic measures and to reduce opportunities for non-essential travel, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television reported.
The list of cancelled trains includes, among others, Sofia links to Plovdiv, Gorna Oryahovitsa, Stara Zagora, Dragoman, Bankya, Dupnitsa, Pernik; also Plovdiv links to Asenovgrad, Karlovo and Peshtera. Also cancelled are Svishtov-Levski, Sliven-Zimnitsa and Petrich-Dupnitsa.
Passengers would be able to board trains only at main and junction stations. Pre-sale and online ticket sales are to be suspended between April 17 and 20.
The Prosecutor’s Office said on April 16 that two further charges had been lodged under the Criminal Code against Volen Siderov, leader of the pro-Russian Ataka party and a Sofia city councillor.
The charges arise from threats against the authorities investigating him on earlier charges of breaking the emergency regulations by urging people to attend church en masse at Easter.
Bail was set in connection with the two new charges at 50 000 leva, on top of the 50 000 leva bail set in connection with the earlier charge. In each case, Siderov has 14 days to pay bail.
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