Covid-19 in Bulgaria: Report criticises pandemic management under former government

A report by Bulgaria’s National Centre for Public Health and Analyses, published on July 1, criticised decisions taken by the government of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov to limit the spread of coronavirus infections, but contained no specific recommendations on how the Covid-19 pandemic could have been managed better.

The report, ordered by caretaker Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov in late May, said that the high Covid-19 mortality rate recorded in Bulgaria could be attributed to three main factors – the poor health of Bulgaria’s population, the state of its healthcare system and the measures taken to manage the pandemic.

“The crisis caused by Covid-19 in Bulgaria was managed primarily with a political and less so medical approach,” the report said, but noted that blame could not be attributed to individual people, who “acted according to their own convictions in the name of the public good.”

There was a “lack of holistic strategy to manage the pandemic” over the period covered by the report, namely March 2020 to May 2021, and “insufficient information about what was happening in the country.”

The report said that some decisions were taken “based on political logic and rationale rather than medical considerations,” while some decisions “contradicted epidemiological science and knowledge.”

Several orders issued by Bulgaria’s previous government contributed to spread, rather than prevent Covid-19 infections, the report’s authors said, including the decision to open coronavirus wards in all hospitals.

Another such decision was the suspension of planned surgeries and hospital admissions, as well as the order to only admit Covid-19 patients to hospitals, which “overloaded hospitals with only one kind of patients, which led to a cascade of problems,” the report said, without going into detail about what those problems were.

The authors did not provide the reasoning for their conclusions or offer alternative scenarios that could have yielded a better outcome. The section of the report analysing the actions of senior healthcare officials did not contain any data, only conclusions.

A separate section on the effect of general anti-epidemic measures only included one graph with the number of compliance checks carried out, but no analysis.

Katsarov said that the report would serve as the basis of the ministry’s plan to deal with any future spike in Covid-19 cases, which was expected to be presented next week, Bulgarian National Radio reported.

Katsarov said that the plan would include investment in hospitals, criteria for introducing and easing restrictions, as well as outlining the functions of emergency, out-patient and hospital services in case of a new Covid-19 wave.

(Caretaker Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov photo: Bulgarian Health Ministry)

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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