Covid-19: Bulgaria facing sharp rise in cases after festive season – Kunchev

Bulgaria’s Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev said on December 30 that the country should brace for a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in early January 2022, after the end of the festive season.

Official confirmation of the presence of the Omicron variant of the virus could happen the same time frame, as sequencing of recent samples is completed, Kunchev said in an interview with private broadcaster bTV.

Kunchev said that Bulgaria was entering the new Covid wave with a high baseline, unlike the previous waves, with more than 4000 people hospitalised and more than 400 people in intensive care.

The most recent daily report from the unified information portal showed Bulgaria on the verge of breaking past 100 000 active cases. After a peak of 115 000 on November 10, the lowest number of active cases was 95 000 on December 17.

The Omicron strain of the coronavirus was showing signs of “very efficient transmission,” doubling the number of cases every two to three days, Kunchev said.

Although the variant appeared to be less likely to require hospital stay or cause death, the “tsunami” of new cases could still lead to an increase in the number of hospitalisations, with a “devastating effect” on the healthcare system and the economy as a whole, he said.

Gatherings during the festive season created the necessary conditions to spread the virus and the increase in Covid cases might be seen already in the first week of January.

Due to the low vaccination rate in Bulgaria, the country was facing the prospect of the worst-case scenario. “If other [countries] go through the waves in one way, we are going through in tougher conditions and pay a higher price in terms of human lives lost,” he said.

Kunchev said that political instability throughout the past year, with three parliamentary elections held in 2020, led to “political influences” having an impact on decisions regarding pandemic response measures.

But he denied that Bulgarian healthcare authorities failed in the vaccination campaign, saying that failure would have been if authorities did not provide the necessary number of vaccines or access to vaccination.

Instead, the “mistake” was the absence of a good communication campaign that could persuade an estimated 48 per cent of the country’s population, “those who are unsure or afraid”, to get the shot, Kunchev said.

Mathematics professor Nikolai Vitanov, whose predictions of Covid-19 trends, based on mathematical modelling, generally have been accurate, said on December 30 that he expected that the increase in cases will take hold after January 7.

Speaking to Bulgarian National Radio, Vitanov said that the increased transmission rate of the Omicron strain would make it the dominant variant by the end of January, reaching a peak in February.

Vitanov said that he agreed with Kunchev’s forecast that the Omicron strain will result in an increase of the number of patients in hospitals, but said that the highest strain will be on general practitioner doctors, who will be required to monitor a much larger number of people receiving home treatment.

(Photo of Kunchev via BNT)

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The Sofia Globe staff

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