From March 12 to 26, in-person classes for all pupils from the fifth to 12th grades in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia are suspended and they will go over to distance learning, mayor Yordanka Fandukova said in a Facebook post after a meeting of the operational headquarters against Covid-19.
While pupils are being sent back to distance learning, restaurants in Sofia will remain open, but will have to close at 10pm instead of 11pm.
Fandukova said that at the suggestion of regional health inspectorate head Dr Dancho Penchev “consideration is being given” to suspending visits to large shopping centres and gyms if Covid-19 morbidity in Sofia worsens.
She said that Sofia municipality, health inspectorate and the city’s police are starting intensified inspections for compliance with anti-epidemic measures at retail outlets, restaurants and bars, as well as in public transport.
Employers should allow employees to work from home or on a shift basis where possible, Fandukova said.
Visits by outsiders to social services homes in Sofia are prohibited.
In Sofia, organised excursions, festivals and fairs bringing together a large number of people outdoors are banned.
The Sofia operational headquarters is proposing to the Minister of Education to postpone the dates of school competitions and Olympiads planned for March, including the spring mathematics competitions planned for the end of the month.
Fandukova said that according to the latest data, Sofia has crossed the threshold of 500 infected per 100 000 population.
She said that worryingly, the average age of those infected with Covid-19 was continuing to go down, and currently was 51.
Pressure on the health care system also was increasing significantly, with the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital up by 645 in the past two weeks, Fandukova said.
Emergency phone calls about new coronavirus cases had gone up by 30 per cent, she said, without specifying over what period of time.
Health Minister Kostadin Angelov was quoted by his ministry as saying on March 10 that local measures were being started in 10 districts in Bulgaria where the incidence of Covid-19 infections is high.
From Friday, shopping malls and gyms in Bulgaria’s Bourgas district will be closed, and pupils from the fifth to 12th grades will switch to distance learning for two weeks.
In Bourgas, wearing masks outdoors is mandatory and there are restrictions on large-scale outdoor and indoor events.
In the Shoumen district, where the rate of infection of 456 per 100 000 population puts the district on the list of Covid-19 “red zones” an announcement on whether restrictions will be tightened is expected.
In Dobrich, the intensive care unit for patients with Covid-19 at the general hospital is full. The hospital’s management pleaded with the public to observe the anti-epidemic measures. In the past five days alone, four Covid-19 patients have died.
In Pazardzhik, all Covid-19 beds at the multi-profile hospital are full. In the district, 100 people have tested positive in the past 24 hours.
In the Yambol district, pupils from the fifth to 12th grades are going over the distance learning until the April school holiday.
If a child or staff member at a nursery or kindergarten falls ill, the facility will be closed.
Retirement clubs in the district are closed under March 24.
Two teams from the regional health inspectorate and regional directorate of the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency are stepping up checks on compliance with anti-epidemic measures at large chain stores and in restaurants in Yambol.
The regional health inspectorate in Varna has ordered the suspension of surgical operations at hospitals, with exceptions for activities related to transplantation of organs, tissues and cells, diagnosis and treatment of patients with oncological and oncohematological diseases, assisted reproduction and childbirth activities, rehabilitation activities, long-term treatment and psychiatric care.
Visits by outsiders to hospitals in Varna are banned, unless to a terminal patient.
A separate order in Varna requires six hospitals to ensure that no fewer than 20 per cent of their beds are available for Covid-19 patients.
In Blagoevgrad district, new anti-epidemic measures will be in force from March 11 to 24.
Pupils in the fifth to 12th grades will go over to distance learning.
Group extracurricular activities are prohibited, as are in-person group classes at language centres and other educational centres.
All cultural and entertainment events in Blagoevgrad district are suspended, including cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries, stage events, concerts, and classes in dance, creative and musical arts.
Mass indoor and outdoor events such as concerts, exhibitions and fairs are restricted.
All sports events, whether training or competitive, are suspended. Fitness centres and gyms are closed.
Restaurants, entertainment and drinking establishments must close no later than 10pm.
People younger than 18 may not visit food and entertainment establishments unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Gatherings and celebrations of a private nature may be attended by no more than 10 people.
At shopping centres and shopping malls in the Blagoevgrad district, only food shops, medical services, pharmacies, opticians, pet shops, insurers, payment service providers, telecommunications operators’ offices and other communications service providers may be open.
The announcements about measures in various districts on the afternoon of March 10 followed earlier announcements elsewhere about new measures against Covid-19, as the situation in Bulgaria steadily worsens.
Bulgaria’s government allowed restaurants to re-open at the beginning of March, after shopping malls fully re-opened in February. Pupils from the fifth to 12th grades have, until now, been on a system of rotating every two weeks between distance and in-person learning.
According to a report by Bulgaria’s National Centre for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases for the week ending March 7, a total of 24 out of the 28 districts in Bulgaria are “red zones” for Covid-19, meaning an infection rate of 120 or higher per 100 000 population.
(Photo: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Education)
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