As the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria worsens rapidly, the Education Ministry said on August 17 that it was suspending the acceptance of applications for state-funded holidays for school pupils.
The “Together Again” programme was announced by Bulgaria’s caretaker government soon after it took office in May, billing the initiative as a way to assist the country’s tourism industry.
The Education Ministry announcement of the suspension of applications for the programme came as there were reports of at least two outbreaks of Covid-19 among groups of pupils on holidays funded by the initiative.
The programme envisaged summer holidays for 30 000 pupils and accompanying teachers, providing 15 million leva (about 7.6 million euro) for the project.
The programme never would have catered for all of Bulgaria’s pupils in the first to 11th grades (12th-graders were not eligible), given that – according to the National Statistical Institute – there are more than 550 000 pupils in schools in the country.
The Education Ministry said that as of August 8, trips involving more than 23 000 children and teachers had been approved.
It is clear from the ministry’s statement that while it is stopping accepting applications, the programme will, in part, continue.
The ministry said that all applications that had been received by August 16 would be processed, and if they met the requirements, they would receive funding.
Holidays for more than 2500 pupils are also planned for the coming weeks, the ministry said.
It said that it had approached the Ministry of Health “for instructions on the safe organisation of the camps in view of the increased risk of infection”.
“The aim is to carry out trips with the lowest possible risk to the health of children, their leaders and families,” the Education Ministry said.
Bulgarian National Radio reported on August 17 that about 30 pupils from two schools in Plovdiv had returned from seaside holidays in the Black Sea town of Primorsko with symptoms of Covid-19. Those infected had stayed at three hotels in Primorsko.
The group was made up of high school pupils aged from 15 to 18, the head of the regional education department in Plovdiv, Antoaneta Pakova, told Radio Plovdiv.
None had been vaccinated against Covid-19.
On August 16, BNR reported that four pupils, aged between 12 and 15, from the town of Elhovo had tested positive for Covid-19 after attending a holiday camp in Shkorpilovtsi on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.
Like those in Primorsko, they had been attending a state-funded holiday under the “Together Again” programme.
The remaining eight pupils and their two teachers who had been in Primorsko had tested negative, but placed in quarantine as contact persons, the regional health inspectorate in Yambol said.
(Photo: Education Ministry)
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