Bulgaria faces severe lack of Covid-19 tests for school pupils

A few weeks after introducing a system allowing first- to fourth-grade pupils to return to in-person classes provided that they are tested twice a week for Covid-19, Bulgaria faces a severe shortage of tests.

Caretaker Education Minister Nikolai Denkov, speaking to Bulgarian National Radio on November 25, said: “There are several public procurements for more than three million tests for students, but there are no companies that can delivery such quantities in the short time we need them”.

“The objective problem is that there are no tests in Bulgaria, the money is there,” Denkov said.

He said that so far, more than a million tests had been provided to schools.

In order for all the pupils to attend in-person classes, 1.4 million tests a week were needed.

Denkov said that as soon as tests are delivered to the Bulgarian Red Cross warehouse in the village of Lozen outside Sofia, they are distributed.

“We receive 100 000 to 150 000 tests, in small portions, which allows us to maintain grades one to four (in person), but does not allow us to allow older pupils in because there are none for them”.

He said that as of November 24, a total of 22 children in Bulgaria had died of Covid-19. Caring for children’s health was extremely important and had to be taken into account when discussing in-person learning, Denkov said.

Separately, a statement on the unified information portal on November 25 said that there were tests for first- to fourth-grade pupils to last to the end of next week.

Currently, 114 300 tests were available at the Bulgarian Red Cross warehouse, the statement said.

It said that some pupils in the fifth to 12th grades in 102 municipalities had returned to in-person learning, on a rotation basis according to a weekly schedule. The reason was that morbidity was between 250 and 500 per 100 000 population, below the threshold that makes it mandatory for schools in a municipality to go over to distance learning.

As of November 24, it has been possible to resume in-person training for pupils in grade five upward provided that more than half the class has a green certificate, for vaccination, having undergone Covid-19, the presence of antibodies or a negative PCR or antigen laboratory test.

Private schools are now allowed to purchase tests using their own funds, to return pupils to in-person learning, while they wait for the state to deliver tests free of charge, the statement said.

(Photo: Bulgaria’s Education Ministry)

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