Covid-19: EC approves 51M leva in state aid for Bulgarian tourism sector

The European Commission said on December 21 that it has approved 51 million leva, or about 26 million euro, in state aid for Bulgaria’s tour operators and travel agents.

The funding would be issued as grants, to be used to refund customers whose travel packages have been cancelled between March 1 and December 31 due to the coronavirus outbreak, and to cover costs of their main activities over the same period.

The measure aims to address any liquidity shortages caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission said that the measure was in line with the conditions set out in its temporary framework on state aid, as it capped the maximum grant at 800 000 euro per company and had a limited time scope until June 30 2021.

In other news on December 21 related to the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria:

A government media statement said that at meeting between Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and members of the Cabinet, it was decided that the 10-day quarantine for everyone entering the territory of Bulgaria from the United Kingdom should remain in force until January 31 2021.

In fact, that date was stated in the order issued by Health Minister Kostadin Angelov on December 20.

The statement quoted Angelov as telling the December 21 meeting that the new strain of Covid-19 has been found to spread faster and that the vaccines created also work against it.

“That is why it is very important for Bulgarian citizens to stay healthy until the arrival of the vaccine,” Angelov said.

Borissov ordered the ministers of health and foreign affairs to make arrangements for providing vaccines for the citizens of Albania, the Republic of North Macedonia and the other countries of the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership, once the needs of Bulgarian citizens are met.

He said that “if it turns out that this (new strain of) virus is not what is being talked about, we will immediately resume flights”.

Transport Minister Rossen Zhelyazkov said out that France has also closed its land borders with the United Kingdom. “Our lorries cannot leave the UK,” the transport minister said, adding that he had asked the French transport minister to ensure the transit of Bulgarian lorries.

Bulgaria’s Tourism Ministry said in a December 21 statement that minister Mariana Nikolova had inspected accommodation and the ski area at the mountain resort of Pamporovo.

Nikolova said that reservations were down by about 70 per cent. She said that reservations from the UK had been cancelled and noted the restrictions on travel to and from there, according to the statement.

The statement said that Bulgaria’s ski tourism industry had pointed out that one of the problems on the slopes now was a lack of toilets, because of restaurants and taverns being closed. The possibility of installing chemical toilets, or allowing some establishments to have their toilets open, was being discussed, Nikolova said.

Regarding the possibility for restaurants to work longer hours on New Year’s Eve, Nikolova said that the situation is monitored daily and various options are being discussed, but people’s lives and health were most important.

With the rules currently requiring restaurants to close at 10pm, on New Year’s Eve people could finish their celebrations in their rooms “in a family atmosphere of up to two to three people, as is the case everywhere in Europe,” the statement quoted Nikolova as saying.

(European Commission headquarters Berlaymont building. Photo: JLogan)

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The Sofia Globe staff

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