The incidence of Covid-19 in Bulgaria has increased 94 per cent on a two-week basis, national operational headquarters chief Major-General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski told a March 18 briefing at which it was announced stricter anti-epidemic measures would take effect for 10 days from March 22.
Mutafchiyski said that there had been a very steep rise in the rate of mortality, by 46 per cent over a week and by 124 per cent on a two-week basis.
In terms of the rate of increase in cases registered per day, Bulgaria was seventh in the world and fourth in Europe.
Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev said that with the exception of Turgovishte, every other district in Bulgaria was a Covid-19 “red zone”, meaning a rate of infection of 120 or more per 100 000 population.
Kunchev said that morbidity was highest in the district of Bourgas, followed by Pleven, Sofia, Vratsa and Kyustendil. These districts have rates of morbidity exceeding 600 per 100 000 population.
Morbidity rates were lowest in Turgovishte, Vidin, Razgrad and Kurdzhali, he said.
Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova told the briefing that there the number of hospitalisations in Bulgaria’s capital city had increased by 35 per cent in the past 10 days.
There were more than 2100 patients with Covid-19 in hospitals in Sofia, Fandukova said.
She said that the number of those in need of intensive care had increased by 36 per cent.
March 18 was the third consecutive day that there were more than 1000 newly-infected people in Sofia.
There was also an increase in the number of children in need of hospitalisation, as well as an increase in the number of young people who are seriously ill.
Health Minister Kostadin Angelov said that the number of infected children being admitted to hospitals across the country was increasing.
On the issue of vaccinations, Angelov said that had vaccines arrived in Bulgaria as agreed, by now the country would have been able to vaccinate 600 000 a month.
This was why Prime Minister Boiko Borissov had insisted in his letter to the European Commission that the agreements be kept to, Angelov said.
Asked why Bulgaria had not taken up its full quota for each type of vaccine, he said that had the country done so, it would have had to pay 600 million leva (about 300 million euro).
“Based on the desire of people to be vaccinated, with a population of seven million, including children, we ordered enough to be enough for everyone. If we had ordered the entire amount in the quota, there would be questions about whether this is waste, with the money we have given, whether we could not buy helicopters, equip or build hospitals.”
Angelov said that the question was different, why the manufacturers had not fulfilled their commitments.
“History does not begin and end with Pfizer-BioNTech,” he said.
“It begins in August with the European Commission’s contract with AstraZeneca. The first delivery of this vaccine was supposed to be at the end of December last year. The quantities of this vaccine were 4.5 million doses. In talks with general practitioners, they said, that they prefer this vaccine because its logistics are easier,” Angelov said.
But AstraZeneca had cut deliveries by 40 per cent of the amount requested, for which the country was compensating by ordering doses made by other manufacturers.
He said that he did not know what happened to the rest of Bulgaria’s vaccine quota, as the government has “no form of relationship with manufacturers.”
“There is information about the export of over 30 million doses from the EU to other countries, but I do not know if this is the case,” Angelov said.
He said that the election process – Bulgarians are due to go to the polls on April 4 – was not in jeopardy.
“They (the elections) will be safe and can be safe in the course of this pandemic,” Angelov said.
Kunchev said that so far, 24 000 election officials had received doses of vaccines against Covid-19.
He said that vaccinations of election officials, even with a single dose because that still provides some protection, would continue up to election day.
Angelov, asked whether Borissov supported the stepped-up measures, said that the Prime Minister had been briefed on the situation in each district. Decisions were made on an informed basis and Borissov agreed with the March 18 decision, Angelov said.
Asked whether it had been a mistake to allow restaurants to re-open as of March 1, Angelov gave no clear answer.
(Photo of Mutafchiyski: Military Medical Academy)
The Sofia Globe’s coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria is supported by the Embassies of Switzerland and Finland.
For as little as three euro a month or the equivalent in other currencies, you can support The Sofia Globe via patreon.com and get access to exclusive subscriber-only content: