Covid-19: Next year, no one will want to come to Bulgaria, Kantardzhiev says

Given the low level of vaccination against Covid-19 in the country “next year no one will want to come to Bulgaria,” the former head of the National Centre for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, Professor Todor Kantardzhiev, told Bulgarian National Radio in an interview on October 8.

Kantardzhiev, who was sent on pension by the caretaker government after it took office in May and now is a consultant to Sofia municipality on vaccination, said that it was expected that the spread of Covid-19 in Sofia would become diffuse over the next 10 days.

“There is still a reserve of hospital beds. If necessary, timely measures will be required,” he said.

Kantardzhiev said that in the summer, Bulgaria’s Health Ministry should have taken the approach used in other European countries, to allow people into restaurants, concerts and theatres only if they have been vaccinated.

But at the time, he said, the Health Ministry had been busy settling scores.

Kantardzhiev’s comments as the number of Covid-19 dark red zones in Bulgaria – meaning, a morbidity rate of 500 or more out of 100 000 population – rose to six on October 8.

The October 8 update by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) showed that while the EU-EEA average for having received at least a single dose of vaccine against Covid-19 was 80 per cent, in Bulgaria the figure was a mere 24.4 per cent of the population.

According to the ECDC, the EU-EEA average for having completed the Covid-19 vaccination cycle was 74.4 per cent, in Bulgaria it was only 23.3 per cent.

On October 8, Bulgarian National Television reported that pupils from the fifth to the 12th grades in the towns of Sliven, Nova Zagora, Tvarditsa and Kotel were being put on a rotating basis between in-person and distance learning.

This was among measures adopted at a meeting of the Covid-19 crisis staff in Sliven, the report said.

In Sliven district, morbidity on a 14-day basis is 535 per 100 000 people. The Covid-19 morbidity rate among teaching and non-teaching staff as well as pupils was high, BNT said.

The measures will remain in effect until the end of October. Further details of the measures will be announced at a later stage.

According to Darik Radio, Pernik district – which is among those listed as a Covid-19 dark red zone – is introducing mandatory anti-epidemic measures from October 11 to 24.

Routine operations and visits to hospitals in Pernik district are suspended, as are private gatherings, mass sports events, both indoors and outdoors.

Visits to gyms, sports clubs, swimming pools and complexes are banned.

Cultural and entertainment events, such as cinemas, theatres, circus performances, concerts and other stage events may go ahead, subject to a 30 per cent limit on use of capacity.

Visits to restaurants, gambling halls and casinos are allowed, but no more than 50 per cent of capacity may be used, chairs at separate tables must be two metres apart and opening hours are restricted to 6am to 10pm.

Schools are going over to rotating between in-person and distance learning.

On October 8, the Supreme Administrative Prosecutor’s Office announced that it had sent a formal inquiry to caretaker Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov asking whether there were rules regarding the admission of children with Covid-19 to hospital. It said that made the inquiry given the significant increase in the incidence of Covid-19 among the 0-19 age group in Bulgaria.

The office said that it proposed to Katsarov to consider taking actions related to the organisation and effectiveness of control over implementation of existing anti-epidemic measures, to limit the spread of Covid-19 and provide proper, adequate and timely treatment of patients.

It also asked Katsarov whether there was an order to control the vaccination process, what it said and whether it was being implemented.

Among other questions, the prosecutors asked Katsarov if there was a method of checking people with vaccination certificates to see if they had actually been vaccinated, and how this was regulated.

Prosecutors asked for clarity whether a control regulation had been issued for laboratories testing for new coronavirus.

“The caretaker Health Ministry should also send information whether the conduct of the analysis of the reasons for the high mortality of patients infected with coronavirus in our country is regulated, and whether possibilities are being sought to change this trend, and also whether medical practices for treatment and admission to hospitals are regulated,” the prosecutors said, asking for Katsarov’s reply as soon as possible.

On October 8, Katsarov’s ministry announced the first live televised draw in the raffle of smart watches to encourage people to get vaccinated had been held on public broadcaster BNT.

A total of 1206 participants who had registered took part in the first draw, which saw 25 smart watches given away, the ministry said. The raffle continues throughout October, and only newly-vaccinated people – with either a first dose, second or booster – may participate, the ministry announced earlier.

For the rest of The Sofia Globe’s continuing coverage of the Covid-19 situation, 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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