Bulgarian restaurant, tourism bodies hold national ‘green certificate’ protest

Bulgarian restaurant, tourism, fitness and retail centre bodies held what was billed as a national protest in Sofia and several other cities and towns on October 28, demanding changes to the “green certificate” rules which they said were introduced hastily and are discriminatory.

The “green certificate” system was ordered by caretaker Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov to take effect on October 21, providing for admission to indoor public places for holders of such certificates, and Covid-19 rapid testing for others.

The organisers of the protests said that instead of resolving the medical crisis, the system was deepening the economic one. Earlier, Bulgarian restaurant associations said that on the first two days the system went into effect, turnover of restaurants dropped by 80 per cent.

They listed their demands as including antibody test results as a basis for such a certificate, the state to provide free tests, including state and municipal administrations in the “green certificate” system, and that the system should come into use only when the country is classified as a “dark red” or “red” zone for Covid-19 morbidity.

They said that there should be an urgent solution for people not recommended to receive vaccinations on medical grounds.

The organisers said that there should have been a grace period before the system was introduced, but in practice there had not been one.

In other Covid19 news in Bulgaria:

The Health Ministry said that within days, there would be temporary limitations on planned admissions and operations in hospitals in capital city Sofia.

The measure will not affect the activities related to transplantation of organs, tissues and cells, the diagnosis and treatment of patients with oncological and oncohaematological diseases, the activities of assisted reproduction and childbirth, rehabilitation, long-term treatment, psychiatric care and haemodialysis, deputy health minister Dimitar Petrov said.

As of October 28, school pupils from the first to 12th grades in Plovdiv have gone over the distance learning.

They will remain on distance learning until the 14-day morbidity rate for Covid-19 in Plovdiv decreases, or until Katsarov cancels the temporary anti-epidemic measures, Plovdiv municipality said.

Plovdiv is one of 23 districts in Bulgaria that is a Covid-19 “dark red” zone, meaning a morbidity rate of 500 or more out 100 000 population. The current rule is that when a district exceeds a threshold of 750 000 per 100 000 population, decisions must be made at municipal level on schools shifting to distance learning. As of October 28, Plovdiv district’s morbidity rate is 746.4 out of 100 000 on a 14-day basis.

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said that the Czech Republic has introduced new entry conditions for unvaccinated people arriving from countries classified as high-risk, a group that includes Bulgaria.

Unvaccinated people arriving from Bulgaria should present a negative PCR test, done at most 72 hours before the trip. For them, it is not possible to enter the country with a rapid antigen test. They will also have to take a second PCR test between the fifth and seventh day after arriving.

No restrictive measures shall be applied to children under 12 years of age, as well as to vaccinated people holding a vaccination certificate.

All arrivals from Bulgaria should fill in in advance an electronic Passenger Locator Form (PLF) and present it upon request at the border crossing. The form can be found at  https://plf.uzis.cz/

In case of transit through the territory of the Czech Republic up to 12 hours, there is no requirement for pre-registration before the trip, nor for presenting a PCR test before or after entering the country.

The European Commission said on October 28 that it had adopted two new decisions certifying that Covid-19 certificates issued by Armenia and the United Kingdom are equivalent to the EU Digital Covid Certificate.

As a result, the two countries will be connected to the EU’s system and the Covid certificates they issue will be accepted in the EU under the same conditions as the EU Digital Covid Certificate.

At the same time, the two countries agreed to accept the EU Digital Covid Certificate for travel from the EU to their countries. The two decisions will enter into force as of October 29, the European Commission said.

Caretaker Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov has complained to the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office about a statement by GERB-UDF coalition leader Boiko Borissov that expired vaccines were being used.

In a letter to the prosecutor’s office, Katsarov said that on October 24, Borissov had said that BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines were being used after their September 30 expiry date. Katsarov said that this was “fake news”.

“In Bulgaria, vaccines and drugs are administered only during the expiration date. There is no doctor or pharmacist in the world who would give his patient an expired medicine. The Covid-19 pandemic is not just a health problem. This is a national crisis affecting virtually all spheres of our public life,” Katsarov said. 

“Spreading the fake news, which was probably done as part of Mr. Borissov’s election campaign, is a socially dangerous act, given the fact that the person is a former Prime Minister of Bulgaria and currently chairman of the GERB political party, his statement can influence the decisions of many people,” he said.

The Health Ministry has said that the European Medicines Agency had authorised the extension of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine shelf life from six to nine months.

GERB responded with a statement that every day that Katsarov remained in office at the Health Ministry raised the level of public danger because of the absence of appropriate decisions to control the epidemic waves.

“The only culprit for the lack of timely information that the expiry date of vaccines has been extended is Stoicho Katsarov. The same man is also guilty of the failed vaccination campaign so far, because vaccines age in freezers, while Bulgaria remains last in EU vaccination,” GERB said, adding that Borissov and the party had been foremost in encouraging people to be vaccinated.

(Montage of photos from streaming of the protest from various parts of Bulgaria)

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

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The Sofia Globe staff

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