Covid-19 in Bulgaria: Very steep rise in mortality curve

There is a very steep rise in the Covid-19 mortality curve in Bulgaria, with the largest increase since September, national operational headquarters chief Major-General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski told a news conference on March 11.

The increase is on average 53 per cent on a weekly basis, Mutafchiyski said at the Health Ministry’s regular weekly briefing on the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria.

The increase in morbidity was 38 per cent on a weekly basis. “We are currently at the level of November 5,” he said.

The number of hospital cases was up by 12 per cent and on a weekly basis, the increase in occupancy of intensive care beds was 11.3 per cent, Mutafchiyski said.

“Things are not going in the right direction, measures must be taken,” he said, pointing to hospitals where capacity was exhausted.

“This morning at the Military Medical Academy we had five free beds, although three days ago we opened two new clinics. By the time I return from this briefing, these beds will no longer be available,” he said.

Mutafchiyski’s message was starker than that of Health Minister Kostadin Angelov and Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev, who at the same briefing defended the current approach to the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria.

Angelov said that in some areas of the country, the coronavirus situation “is starting to become serious” which he said was expected because of the spread of the UK variant.

Kunchev said that the third wave of Covid-19 infections was present everywhere, especially in the Balkans.

He cited figures that the number of new infections in the past day in Bulgaria was lower than in Serbia and Greece, which have stricter measures.

Kunchev said that in terms of morbidity in the past 14 days, Bulgaria remained in 16th place in the European Union.

The incidence was highest in the districts of Pleven, Kyustendil, Vratsa, Bourgas, Sofia, Shoumen and Pernik, places that had imposed additional measures locally such as sending pupils in the fifth to 12th grades back to distance learning, making the wearing of masks in crowded places outdoors mandatory, cutting restaurant opening hours by an hour and limiting sports events.

“To me, this is absolutely justified,” said Kunchev, who during the briefing took a stance against shutting restaurants, saying that the industry had made every effort to comply with anti-epidemic measures.

Kunchev tangled with reporters who asked why, given the deteriorating situation, firmer measures were not being applied. “No one is claiming that if certain measures are applied, you will get an absence of an epidemic,” he said.

“We are not ready for a new lockdown, not because it is medically unjustified, but because people are not ready,” Angelov said.

“I am not afraid of the measures, nor am I afraid of imposing them. If necessary, we will do so. I do not know when we will do so. If we have to do so, we will do so,” he said. “About six and a half to seven million people live in the country, we don’t have that many police officers,” Angelov said.

“When society is ready to believe in these measures, when it is ready to comply with them, and when we as people believe in the need for these measures, then we will introduce them. There is no way to introduce measures where people do not believe in these measures,” he said.

“It is not a question of issuing an order, but of ensuring its observance,” Angelov said. Responding to a question, he denied that Prime Minister Boiko Borissov – whose party faces an election at the beginning of April – had told the operational headquarters not to press for stricter anti-epidemic measures.

Medicines Agency head Bogdan Kirilov told the news conference that reports of adverse reactions after vaccinations were at a rate of about three in 1000, meaning 840 such reports.

Commenting on reports that Austria had suspended the administering of a specific batch of AstraZeneca vaccine after a death, Kirilov said that there was no data on a causal link and the European Medicines Agency had not recommended that other countries suspend vaccinations with the vaccine.

He said that 31 200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine had been delivered to Bulgaria on February 12 and almost all of them had been administered. Bulgarian health authorities had not received any reports on adverse reactions, he said.

A further 31 200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines were expected in Bulgaria on March 12, a quantity 2400 more than initially agreed, Kirilov said. A total of 21 060 doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine are expected on March 15, while 33 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected in the middle of next, and 36 000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine at the end of next week, Kirilov said.

For the rest of The Sofia Globe’s continuing coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria, please click here.

The Sofia Globe’s coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria is supported by the Embassies of Switzerland and Finland.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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