Bulgaria’s state IT firm: Covid green certificates being downloaded at rate of 1000 a minute

After Bulgaria announced new measures requiring “green certificates” for admission to indoor public places as of October 21, nearly 50 000 certificates were downloaded, and currently are being downloaded at a rate of more than 1000 a minute, state-owned IT company Informatsionno Obsluzhvane said on October 20.

The company said that more than one million European green certificates had been downloaded, adding that in fact the number of people in Bulgaria who have a certificate is much higher because some get one from their GPs or vaccination points.

Bulgaria was among the first seven EU countries to start issuing the certificate, in June, 30 days before an EU regulation made this mandatory in all the bloc’s countries.

Informatsionno Obsluzhvane said that so far, the system had generated close to 1.4 million certificates for a completed vaccination cycle and close to 10 000 documents for a booster dose of vaccine.

More than a million certificates had been issued for a negative test result and more than 43 000 for having been diagnosed with Covid-19, confirmed by a positive PCR test result.

Users can download their electronic version of the certificate from the National Health Insurance Fund website https://www.his.bg/bg/dgc and store it on their mobile devices.

The company said that as of August 2021, it had provided the opportunity to download digital certificates in PKPASS format, which allows the document to be stored in a “wallet” type application on mobile devices with Android and IOS operating systems.

Bulgarian National Television reported on October 20 that queues for vaccinations had formed in front of Pirogov, Alexandrovska and Sveta Anna hospitals in capital city Sofia.

Bulgarian National Radio said that queues had formed in front of vaccination points in the coastal city of Bourgas. The report quoted people as saying that they had come because of the government’s new requirement for green certificates. Some were worried that without one, they would not be able to enter their workplaces.

Radio Plovdiv said that queues were winding in front of the regional health inspectorate in Plovdiv. The inspectorate said that it had a sufficient quantity of vaccines to cope with demand. As of October 20, the Plovdiv district has been classified as a Covid-19 dark red zone, having exceeded the threshold of 500 per 100 000 population on a 14-day basis. It is one of 16 Covid-19 dark red zone districts in Bulgaria.

A day before the introduction of the Covid certificate, the Sofia regional health inspectorate announced that it was recruiting volunteers to help control the anti-epidemic measures in Sofia. The volunteers will collect data on infected and contact persons and enter this into the register that is part of the unified information system.

On October 20, Nova Televizia reported that owners of restaurants, nightclubs and gyms had announced a boycott of the new measures.

Restaurant association head Richard Alibegov said that the state had not listened to the sector, which had wanted the green certificate order also to cover the state administration, and antibody test results to be recognised.

Atanas Dimitrov of the Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association said: “We feel completely abandoned by the state…we cannot pay salaries and social security contributions. Electricity too. All this is disastrous”.

There was also reaction to Katsarov’s October 19 announcement from major political parties.

GERB-UDF coalition leader Boiko Borissov said that the introduction of “green passports” overnight was an escape from responsibility and was “sabotage of business and a gross violation of citizens’ rights”.

Borissov said: “A full lockdown is needed, but of (President) Roumen Radev’s government. They have failed in every sector”.

“The cheerful face of chaos Stoicho Katsarov did not shy away from saying that he finds hospital beds for his relatives while the Bulgarians are dying,” Borissov said.

“Green passports” work in countries where citizens have been vaccinated for one year. In Bulgaria there are 20 per cent vaccinated, Borissov said. “I ask: If a citizen does not have a certificate, how will he vote?”

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) called for Katsarov’s resignation.

In a position posted on the BSP website, it said that vaccination was a voluntary act.

“Let anyone who wants to do it. The vaccine would help limit the spread of the disease and save lives. At the same time, the constitutional rights of citizens must not be restricted. The introduction of a ‘green certificate’ by the Cabinet in this reckless way is unacceptable and unworkable,” the BSP said.

“These measures are applied in European countries, where a high percentage of the population is vaccinated, but are not applicable for Bulgaria,” the party said, demanding that the decisions be revoked and the measures discussed carefully again.

“Minister Katsarov is unable to cope with the deepening crisis. We expect him to resign,” the BSP said.

In an incident on October 20, protesters against the measures, reportedly including the pro-Russian Vuzrazhdane party which has a track record of opposing all measures, attempted to get to Education Minister Nikolai Denkov as he was leaving the Cabinet building in Sofia.

According to Bulgarian National Television, police formed a tight cordon around Denkov but one of the protesters managed to hit him in the face with a flag.

The ministry told the media that Denkov had no injuries and was in “excellent physical and mental shape”.

Traffic near the Cabinet building was blocked on the afternoon of October 20 by various protests, including by doctors and nurses, and emergency medics who alleged that Katsarov had lied to them when he said that he would increase their basic salaries.

Protests against the amended measures, involving a few hundred people, were also reported outside some of the regional health inspectorates elsewhere in Bulgaria.

(Photo: Christophe Licoppe/ EC Audiovisual Service)

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