Government sends mixed signals about quarantine in case of coronavirus suspicion

Bulgaria seems ill equipped to deal with a possible outbreak

COVID-19 briefing

Inconsistencies at the top of the executive branch regarding how to deal with a possible outbreak continue as Bulgaria waits for its first coronavirus case. Officials can’t seem to agree on what citizens, coming in from the so-called high-risk countries – countries with COVID-19 outbreaks like Italy, China, South Korea – should do to help prevent the virus from spreading.

The chairwoman of the Parliamentary Health Committee, Dr. Daniela Daridkova suggested in Parliament on Wednesday that citizens with health coverage returning from risk countries should take 14-day sick leave and go under self-quarantine. A similar message came from the special crisis team, which was assembled to counter the spreading of the coronavirus.

But a day later the statement was contradicted both by Healthcare Minister Kiril Ananiev and Social Policy Minister Denitsa Sacheva. The two ministers said that there will be no paid sick leave for self-quarantining citizens. Instead the days will either be deducted from workers’ annual paid holiday leave orcitizens should take unpaid leave. Sacheva expressed concern that mass leave due to panic will reflect badly on the economy.

Daridkova tried to assure that sick leave for quarantine is provided under the law. However, it is not a rule which means it will ultimately fall to the GPs to decide whether or not a person receives sick leave to self-quarantine or not.

Daridkova also suggested GPs should confirm with the border police if a patient has returned from a risk country before ordering sick leave. It is unclear how this communication should be conducted though. In Daridkova’s view the task to ensure the information flows between doctors and border patrol should fall to the coronavirus crisis team. She also expressed ‘hope’ that authorities will contact the GPs affiliated with people coming from risk countries. Using the regional health inspectorates’ network would also be a good idea, she suggested.

From making contradictory public statements, to expressing wishful thinking and theorizing which institution is responsible for what, it seems clear a systematic effort to deal with the coronavirus is absent from the government.

Meanwhile hospitals across the country are observing 20 patients for suspicion of coronavirus. There are no confirmed cases in Bulgaria to date. The chief of the crisis team and head of the military hospital in Sofia, Major Dr. Vencislav Mutafchiyski said there are no cases yet in Romania or Serbia also.

The crisis team urges anyone with flu-like symptoms, especially returning from a risk country in the last two weeks to report to their GP or nearest hospital.

Mutafchiyski assured that anyone with symptoms will be admitted to hospitals. People returning from risk countries, who do not exhibit symptoms will not be admitted but are strongly advised to stay home.

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