Covid-19 in Bulgaria: Health Ministry outlines restrictions plan in case of new wave

Bulgaria’s caretaker Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov presented on July 8 a framework for re-introducing restrictions in case of a new increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country.

Under the ministry’s framework, there were four levels of infection, colour-coded as “green” (under 100 confirmed cases per 100 000 population), “orange” (100-250 per 100 000 population), “red” (250-500 per 100 000 population) and “dark red” (over 500 per 100 000 population).

These levels were nationwide and chosen by the ministry’s experts that worked on the plan. They were separate from the district-level colour codes reported every week by the National Centre for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, Katsarov said.

The four levels were also tied to the number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals – “green” was under 2500, “orange” was 2500 to 6000, “red” was 6000 to 9000 and “dark red” was over 9000.

Restrictions would go up if either one of the criteria – morbidity rates or hospital occupancy – reached the requisite threshold, Katsarov said. Health inspectorates in districts with higher rates than nationwide would have the option to introduce restrictions sooner, he said.

Even at the current “green” level, there were some restrictions in place, such as capacity-related limitations on conference, cultural and sports events, as well as the operation of restaurants and bars, among others.

At the “dark red” level, restrictions would be wide-spread: the only stores open would be supermarkets, pharmacies and banks; restaurants would only be allowed to make home deliveries; hotels would operate only with room service for their guests; no mixing between households at home gatherings, with no events like weddings or funerals allowed in public.

At that level, schools and universities would switch fully to distance learning, with the sole exception made for medical practical lessons, while kindergartens would continue to work only if all their staff had been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 and if all parents of children had been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19.

The framework is available (in Bulgarian, here) on the Health Ministry’s website.

The framework was part of the ministry’s plan to manage another wave of Covid-19 infections, Katsarov said, which also includes a gradual ramping up of the number of beds available in hospitals, as well as the sequence in which hospitals would begin to admit Covid-19 patients.

The plan also listed specific actions and targets for general practitioners, emergency services and out-patient assistance, Katsarov said. The full plan was yet to be published by the ministry, but Katsarov said that it would be forwarded to other state institutions so that they could use it in their own planning.

Katsarov said that only vaccination could prevent another Covid-19 wave. Asked if the ministry would change the vaccination plan drafted under the previous Boiko Borissov administration, he was scathing and described it as poorly-designed. He said Bulgaria currently had enough vaccines on hand that it could meet any demand.

In a worst-case scenario, comparable to the third wave experienced by Bulgaria in early spring, when hospitalisations at one point exceeded 10 000, the direct cost – measuring treatment, the cost of medicines and increased remuneration of front-line staff – could reach up to 600 million leva, he said.

(Bulgarian caretaker Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov photo: 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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