Bulgaria’s Health Ministry calls tender for 400 000 antigen tests for primary school pupils

Bulgaria’s Ministry of Health has called a public tender for the urgent purchase of up to 400 000 rapid antigen tests, of a non-invasive kind, to screen school pupils in grades one to four.

Announcing the tender on its website, the ministry said that the aim of the purchase was to provide for “a longer course of the in-person learning process”.

The plan is to conduct testing of pupils in those grades twice a week. The tests will use saliva, not swabbing of the nose and throat. Parents who do not want their children to be tested will be allowed to let them go over to distance learning.

Those eligible to bid include all natural and legal persons that have a valid wholesale permit for medical devices issued by Bulgaria’s Medicines Ageny, or another document certifying their right to trade in medical devices, or are manufacturers established in Bulgaria.

The tests offered must be from a manufacturer that produces tests included in the Common List of Mutually Recognised Rapid Antigen Tests for Covid-19 of the EU Health Security Commission, current at the date of submission of the tender.

All accessories needed to perform the test should be included in the kit (container/collector cup /saliva bag, buffer) the ministry said.

The tests must be accompanied by Bulgarian-language instructions for use, sensitivity of the tests must be 90 per cent or higher, and as of the date of delivery, the tests must have a remaining shelf life of no less than 75 per cent of that declared by the manufacturer.

The ministry said that the deadline for bids is 5.30pm on October 29. It said that it would pay for the delivered tests by bank transfer within 30 days of the submission of documents set out in the announcement of the tender.

A post on the Facebook page of Bulgaria’s Education Ministry quoted minister Nikolai Denkov as saying that with the current high incidence rates of Covid-19, a green certificate and regular testing were the only way for there to be in-person learning without a risk to health and life.

“If we want children to be in class, teachers must choose one of three options – a vaccine, a sick certificate or a test twice a week. This system has been successfully implemented throughout Europe,” Denkov said.

“Whether the children will study in attendance from next week also depends on the consent of their parents for them to be tested for free with saliva tests, as well as on the willingness of teachers to choose between vaccination, an illness document or free testing twice a week,” he said.

Children with a document of having undergone Covid-19 or having been vaccinated will not be tested, Denkov said. Currently, Bulgaria offers vaccination against Covid-19 to those aged 12 and older.

According to official Ministry of Health data, more than 37 per cent of teachers in Bulgaria have been vaccinated and more than 10 per cent have had Covid-19.

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