All activities in indoor public places, from large shops in malls to restaurants to cinemas and other places, will require the public to show a “green certificate” for admission as of October 21, Bulgaria’s caretaker Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov told a news conference on October 19.
Katsarov made the announcement against the background of Bulgaria’s steadily worsening Covid-19 situation and a series of consultations with health, education and other officials as well as business groups, including representatives of the tourism industry. It also comes against the background of Bulgaria’s appallingly low rate of vaccination against Covid-19.
His announcement follows a recommendation last week by Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev putting forward two options, a shutdown of various public places or the “green certificate” for admission option.
The “green certificate” means an official document showing that the person has completed the vaccination cycle against Covid-19, has undergone the disease, or has had a negative result of a PCR (no older than 72 hours) or antigen (no older than 48 hours) test.
Katsarov said that the measures would be in place for at least two weeks and would continue “until achieving a good result”.
The indoor places to be covered by the measures include hotels, cinemas, theatres, circus performances, concerts, galleries, shops in malls of more than 300 sq m – with an exception for grocery shops, pharmacies and banks – fitness centres, sports halls and clubs.
In the case of schools, they will go over to distance learning when Covid-19 morbidity exceeds 750 out of 100 000 population on a 14-day basis, with decisions taken at municipal rather than district level. When morbidity is between 500 and 750 per 100 000 population, classes will alternate between in-person and distance learning. Teaching staff will not be required to have green certificates.
Pupils from the fifth to 12th grades as well as teaching and non-teaching staff will be required to wear protective masks at school.
At universities, green certificates will be required for in-person learning. Decisions on proceeding with in-person learning will be left to individual universities.
Staff of hospitals and nursing homes will be required to have green certificates. Visits to hospitals and nursing homes will be suspended.
Green certificates will not be required to use public transport.
Indoor sports are suspended, with the exception of training and competitions involving registered athletes at licensed federations. Spectators are banned from such indoor sports events but will be allowed at outdoor sports events, subject to having a green certificate.
Katsarov said that control of laboratories issuing green certificates would be stepped up. If laboratories are found to be issuing certificates fraudulently, their licences will be revoked.
The rules about green certificates do not cover children younger than 12. Bulgaria offers vaccinations against Covid-19 only to those aged 12 and above.
He said that if these measures did not have a positive effect and there was non-compliance with them, stricter measures would be introduced. Katsarov appealed to the public to get vaccinated, as the only way to emerge from the crisis.
Katsarov told the news conference that the order setting out the measures would be issued “by the end of the working day”. By 6pm on October 19, the order had not been posted on the Health Ministry’s website. The Sofia Globe will report full details of the order after it has been published.
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