Covid-19 in Bulgaria, May 8: MPs, cases, masks and parks

Bulgarian MPs approved on May 8 the first reading of amendments to the Health Act that will give Health Minister Kiril Ananiev the power to impose stricter anti-epidemic measures or relax existing restrictions, as well as declare an epidemic emergency, if required, after the State of Emergency lapses on May 13.

The bill will also amend the State of Emergency Measures Act to extend a number of measures listed in that law for a period of two months past the expiration of the State of Emergency.

The transitional and final provisions of the bill contain a number of amendments to other laws, meant to “clearly define the duration of social-economic, financial and health measures to overcome the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Cabinet said in the motives accompanying the bill earlier this week.

One of those provisions would amend the Excise and Tax Warehouses Act, requiring operators to apply and receive new licences. This has prompted the general director of Lukoil Neftochim, Bulat Subaev, to warn that Bulgaria’s sole refinery might have to suspend operations.

Subaev told Bulgarian National Radio on May 8 that the company would have to apply for seven new licences – as opposed to one licence covering its entire storage system – and might not secure all off them within the one-month period stipulated by the amendments. “Given the deadlines, the size of the task and the practical impossibility to meet [the deadlines], the danger of us having to stop work is entirely real,” Subaev told the public broadcaster.

The National Assembly will hold a special sitting on May 12 to vote on the second reading of the Health Act amendments.

The national operational headquarters said on the evening of May 8 that in the past 24 hours, the number of confirmed cases in Bulgaria had increased by 43 to 1872.

The death toll has risen by two, to 86, following the deaths of an 84-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman, both of whom had other serious illnesses.

The number of people in hospital has increased by 24 to 379, while the number in intensive care has increased by six to 49.

Over the coming days, 1.5 million medical masks will be delivered to 17 member states, among them Bulgaria, and the UK to protect healthcare workers against coronavirus, the European Commission said on May 8.

This latest EU mask delivery is part of a new Commission-funded purchase of 10 million masks via the Emergency Support Instrument to provide direct support to EU countries to mitigate the immediate consequences of the pandemic and anticipate the needs related to the exit and recovery.The masks will be delivered to EU countries and regions in need in weekly instalments of 1.5 million masks over the coming six weeks.

By order of Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandakova, two more large parks re-open to visitors on May 9 – the Vrana park and the park in the GS Rakovski Military Academy.

Vrana will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm. Pets and cycling are not allowed in with place.

Vrana Palace, Sofia. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer

From May 9, the Western Gate Archaeological Park and the garden at the Alexander Battenberg Mausoleum will be open to the public.

“We remind citizens to observe all anti-epidemiological measures and, above all, to observe physical distance between groups,” Sofia municipality said.

Mass inspections are underway to see if public transport passengers in Sofia are wearing protective masks. If necessary, police teams will also assist. A passenger who refuses to wear a mask or scarf will be forcibly removed and sanctioned, media reports on May 8 said.

May 8 was scheduled to have seen the release of the National Statistical Institute’s three-monthly survey of consumer confidence, but it did not. The survey is among the activities suspended by the institute, which re-arranged its activities because of the Covid-19 crisis.

(Photo, of staff with a consignment of protective masks to be delivered by the European Commission: EC Audiovisual Service)

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The Sofia Globe staff

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