Bulgaria’s Health Minister: Stricter measures against Covid-19 should continue until end-January

Bulgaria’s anti-epidemic measures against the spread of Covid-19, that came into effect on November 27 and currently are due to expire on December 21, should continue until the end of January, Health Minister Kostadin Angelov and the national operational HQ against new coronavirus have proposed.

The proposal was put forward on December 16 when Angelov and the national operational HQ held a meeting with Prime Minister Boiko Borissov.

An announcement about a decision about the measures is expected on December 17, a government media statement said.

However, unlike the current version of the measures, it is proposed that kindergartens and nurseries re-open on January 1, and that first to fourth grade pupils begin attending classes in-person again from January 4.

Further, it is proposed that galleries, museums, cinemas and theatres be allowed to open, with a limit of 30 per cent of use of capacity and spacing one seat apart.

Eating places in hotels would be allowed to open, using up to 50 per cent capacity, solely for guests of the hotel and with a closing time of 10pm.

Borissov, who last week asked the health authorities for a report on data to enable a decision to be taken on December 17, said: “Society expects us in the coming days for us to tell them in a timely manner want we intend to do, on the basis of medical expertise alone – according to the number of infected, recovered, and so on”.

Angelov said that in the past week, 18 907 people in Bulgaria had recovered from the virus.

“The other positive result of the introduction of the measures is that the morbidity in the country has dropped and is now below 600 per 100 000 population,” Angelov said.

He said that there were no areas in Bulgaria where the rate was more than 1000 per 100 000 people.

Angelov said that in spite of these trends, Bulgaria continued to be number one in Covid-19 mortality in the European Union and in 10th-11th place in terms of morbidity.

He said that because of the continuing strong pressure on Bulgaria’s health system, it was “unthinkable” to speak of even greater easing of restrictions in the country.

Angelov said that the proposal was to continue the measures, apart from the exceptions listed, until January 31, with a review on January 21 to decide what would happen after February 1.

“Given the current situation and the workload of the health care system, we can maintain the current measures and hope that after the holidays the new cases will continue to decrease,” Borissov said.

He said that the extension of the measures until January 31 2021 would oblige the state to provide a further 250 million leva to compensate businesses temporarily closed or whose activities had been limited.

“We have to go through these days. The pandemic is unpredictable, so – as much as we can, we protect ourselves with discipline, distance, disinfection,” Borissov said.

He ordered that there should be, on a daily basis, strict monitoring of the implementation of the anti-epidemic measures, and that those who broke the rules should be sanctioned.

Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev described the proposal as “balanced”.

He said that it would make it possible to strengthen the fragile trend of the reduction of the incidence of Covid-19 “and after the holidays, we will discuss the possibility of further mitigating the measures”.

The chief of the national operational HQ, Major-General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, told the meeting that given the morbidity at the moment, there could be no greater relaxation of restrictions.

(Photo: government.bg)

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