Mathematician: Keeping to measures would have ended Covid-19 epidemic in Bulgaria in mid-June

The professor who heads the team producing mathematical models for forecasting the spread of Covid-19 told Bulgarian National Radio on June 14 that his forecast was that the Covid-19 epidemic would have ended around mid-June provided restrictive measures were strictly observed.

“The measures were followed up to about 10 days ago,” Professor Nikolai Vitanov, who works at the national operational headquarters, told BNR.

“If we had held out two more weeks, we would have emerged from the medical part of the crisis, which means we would have had so few registered cases that we could ignore them because the health system is prepared to deal with them,” he said.

But something else happened, the measures stopped being observed, and obviously, if the measures are not observed, the number of those infected started to grow.

Vitanov said that the risk of infection was now higher but the situation more sustainable because, compared with March, Bulgaria’s health system was better prepared. This explained the Bulgarian government’s decision to loosen the measures, he said.

Should Bulgaria reach the level of 300 newly-infected people a day, this would be unbearable for the health system, Vitanov said.

He and another scientist, immunologist Bogdan Petrunov – former head of the National Centre for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases – were adamant that the measures in Bulgaria had been good and timely, but had to continue for some time before being relaxed.

Petrunov told BNR: “We are far from any end to the epidemic”.

He said that no less than 70 to 80 per cent of the population would have to be infected in order to create the necessary basis for collective immunity, which would lead to the extinction of the virus. But this would happen very slowly, and during this time the anti-epidemic measures must be observed.

Petrunov said that it was important that at the moment, the spread of the virus in Bulgaria was not on a mass basis, but in clusters.

“The very strict measures regarding social and physical isolation must be continued, without closing cities or restaurants, for life in general – economic and social.”

If people did not show responsibility by wearing masks in public places, the epidemic would continue, he said.

In Bulgaria, as of June 15, a number of changes regarding restrictive measures take effect, on top of previous easing of measures, such as the lifting of quarantine requirements for people arriving in Bulgaria from a number of European countries.

From June 15, wearing of protective masks is mandatory only in pharmacies, medical treatment facilities and public transport, removing the requirement to do so in supermarkets.

Night clubs, bars and discos may re-open from Monday.

The occupancy limit for theatrical performances, congresses and conferences and other such events has been increased from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

The home isolation requirement for people discharged from hospital after being treated for Covid-19 has been cut from 28 to 14 days.

On June 6, the number of active cases of Covid-19 in Bulgaria briefly dropped below the 1000-mark for the first time since April. The following day, it rose to 1006, meaning that since June 7, the number of active cases has increased by 365 to a total of 1371 on June 14.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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