Covid-19 in Bulgaria: Authorities to discuss anti-epidemic measures as Omicron wave looms

Bulgaria’s health authorities will discuss on January 4 whether to tighten anti-epidemic measures as the country faces the prospect of a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases now that the Omicron strain has been confirmed in Bulgaria, Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev said on January 3.

Speaking to private broadcaster bTV, Kunchev did not give details about what additional measures could be implemented, but said that very strict measures were “out of the question” and no immediate plans were being drafted to suspend in-person classes in schools.

Kunchev said that the Omicron strain’s transmission rate would be the main deciding factor, but warned against making direct parallels with other countries already in the middle of a Covid-19 wave of cases fuelled by the new variant.

“Neither the age profile, nor the vaccination rates are the same. If we see an identical scenario to the UK, I think that the situation will not be too dramatic,” Kunchev said.

“Yes, there will be a significant increase in the number of infections, but that will not impact the work of hospitals to a great degree, even less so the mortality rate. But such parallels are somewhat dangerous because the percentage of those vaccinated is very different in the two countries,” he said.

Kunchev once again pointed out that Bulgaria was entering the new wave with a very high baseline of active cases, but was optimistic with regards of the impact the Omicron strain could have on the country’s hospitals, saying that early signs indicated that the variant appeared to cause a lighter form of the disease.

Speaking to Bulgarian National Television on January 3, Professor Todor Kantardzhiev, a consultant to Sofia municipality on vaccination and a former head of the National Centre for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, said that he expected a sharp increase in new cases, followed by an equally swift decline.

Kantardzhiev described the fact that the Omicron strain appeared to cause a lighter form of Covid-19 as “good news”, but said that people should still get a booster shot of the vaccine because that increased the odds that infection would only require home treatment to about 8o per cent.

Bulgaria remains the country with the lowest vaccination uptake rate in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA), according to the latest data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

As of January 3, only 28.3 per cent of the country’s population received at least one dose of vaccine, compared to 28.2 per cent in the previous ECDC update from December 22 2021. Full vaccination uptake was 27.3 per cent, up from 27.1 per cent and booster dose uptake was 3.6 per cent, up from 3.4 per cent.

In comparison, the EU/EEA figures were 72.6 per cent, 68.3 per cent and 26.8 per cent, respectively.

(Photo of Kunchev via Bulgarian National Television)

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The Sofia Globe staff

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