Bulgaria surpassed today the 10’000 coronavirus infections mark with 270 new cases in the past 24 hours. Daily cases over the last days have been just under or over 300, a general increase to the daily 200’s over the recent two weeks. The upward trend has been steady in the past several months, after the government dropped virtually all measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. The country is still under a state of epidemic emergency but concrete restrictions - except for mandatory quarantine in case of infection, contact with infected persons and travel from certain countries, and obligatory masks in closed public spaces – are nearly non-existent.
Bulgaria’s initial response to the coronavirus threat was highly restrictive and repressive. The country managed to hold the spread of the virus and was one of the most successful in that among other EU countries, and the neighboring Balkan states as well. After lifting nearly all measures, the trend reversed and, according to Chief Health Inspector Angel Kounchev, today Bulgaria is third after Sweden and Portugal in terms of infection rate. Kounchev will propose for the state of epidemic emergency to receive yet a further expansion past July 31. However, as the government is hardly imposing any measures to contain the spread of the virus as it is, the extension is likely meant to keep the option for emergency measures open.
In an interview on Friday with the Bulgarian National Television Kounchev admitted if it were up to him, as a doctor, he would close the bars and night clubs but “I live in this society and I can see what is happening. I can see to what extent [this society] would be willing to accept such measures. I can also see what effect would such measures have on the people’s economic wellbeing.”
In the course of lifting the restrictions due to the virus, the hospitality and tourism sectors were among the most hardline lobbyists against measures. More than a few times the government announced a date to open restaurants, for example, only to pull it sooner in less than a day after meeting with representatives from the sector. When daily cases passed 200, the Health Minister Kiril Ananiev ordered for bars and nightclubs to only serve outside. The order was revoked in just a few days later. Deputy Health Minister Zheni Nacheva announced the move to reporters and even redirected follow up questions as to the rational about the decision to the chairman of the Association of Restaurateurs, Richard Alibegov, with whom they had just held talks.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus infections to date in Bulgaria is 10123. 4534 of those are active, 669 people with COVID-19 are hospitalized, 28 are in ICUs. 337 with the infection have died since the first cases were discovered in the country back on March 8.
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