Bulgaria bans entry to foreigners from almost all the world over COVID-19

A Bulgarian police officer checks the documents of a driver at a checkpoint outside Sofia, Bulgaria, 21 March 2020. Bulgarian authorities have declared a ban on intercity travel around the country in an effort to slow down the spread of the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 disease. [Vassil Donev/EPA/EFE]

Bulgaria banned entry to its territory to citizens from around the globe except for 19 EU member states, as it battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus, its health minister said on Monday (6 April).

The Balkan country has closed schools, restaurants and bars and restricted travel between cities since the middle of March in an attempt to slow the contagion. Some 549 Bulgarians have been infected with COVID-19 and 22 have died.

“I temporarily ban the entry to the territory of Bulgaria of all citizens of third countries through all border checkpoints with air, sea, rail or automobile transport,” the health minister said in a statement.

The minister also banned entry to all people coming from Italy, Spain, France, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

Exceptions will be made for Bulgarian citizens coming home, as well as those who have long-term permits to live in the country and their families.

According to reports, 120,000 Bulgarians have returned from Western Europe in recent weeks.

The measures will not apply to medics, social workers, transport crews, government officials and seasonal farm workers among others special cases, the statement said.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said it was “not fair” that Bulgarian medical personnel have been leaving for countries such as Austria with charter flights.

Austria imports workers from Bulgaria, Romania to plug gaps in COVID-19 care

Chartered flights brought more than 200 health workers to Austria on Monday (30 March) to ensure that care was not disrupted by COVID-19 travel restrictions, a regional official said.

Bulgaria will allow transit crossing of people from the European Union and neigbouring Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey who need to return to their home countries.

Of all flights normally scheduled for Tuesday, a Wizzair flight to London arrived in Sofia. All other flights were cancelled. Of all departing flights, Wizzair flew back to London, and Bulgaria Air departed for Madrid.

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