Health Minister Kiril Ananiev announces start of mass testing for COVID-19

Ananiev and PM Boyko Borissov were in Bansko where 4000 people will be tested

Minister of Healthcare Kiril Ananiev

PM Boyko Borissov and Health Minister Kiril Ananiev were in Bansko to review the mass testing there. Bansko was the first Bulgarian town in total lockdown for two weeks between March 17 and March 31. The measures were taken after cases of coronavirus were confirmed in tourists who had been infected before coming to Bansko. The ski season closed early in the popular ski resort to contain the spread of the virus just days before the lockdown.

The government has been reluctant to begin mass testing. Initially the coronavirus crisis response team prioritized the social distancing approach in containing the virus and described mass screening as an alternative. Later on, the concept of mass testing gained more traction within the crisis response team and the government, but the tests themselves were a problem to acquire. It would take time and money. In any event, the government announced several weeks ago mass testing will begin late April or early May, and that Bulgaria had ordered tests.

Bansko was scheduled for mass testing because of the lockdown. 4000 people will be tested, which accounts for about 30% of Bansko’s population. While the health minister and the PM went over to see how the testing had been going, Minister Ananiev announced Bulgaria will begin mass testing "from now on."

He explained the approach till now has been to test suspected cases only but "the course we are [now] taking" is. To "mass test Bulgarian citizens in order to probe a larger portion of the population."

The minister and the PM said 20’000 PCR tests are currently available, and "we are awaiting more" from South Korea. 18 laboratories are equipped and engaged in testing for the COVID-19, the PM added.

Ananiev also said a portion of the funds accumulated in the special coronavirus donations’ account, which the Health Ministry set up at the outset of the crisis – amounting to four million leva to date - will be used to get more tests as well.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus crisis response team announced 40 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is a relative spike compared to the last couple of weeks. The other instance in which 40 new cases emerged in a day was March 31, which up till now was the day with most confirmed cases over 24-hour period. 12 more cases were discovered over the course of the day, Wednesday. Bulgaria’s new cases has been averaging at about 18 new cases per day since the first four cases were confirmed on March 8.

To date 747 are the total confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria, 36 people have died with the disease. 218 are currently in hospital, 31 – in ICUs. 

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