Bulgaria removes restrictions amid pandemic third wave peak

A protester waves Bulgarian flag during a protest against coronavirus restrictions in Sofia. [EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV]

The Bulgarian government has announced the relaxation of coronavirus measures as the country is currently undergoing the third pandemic wave, recording close to 10,000 patients in hospitals and 760 in intensive care units.

Bulgaria, which has a population of 6.9 million, has lost about 13,000 people to the virus, putting the country in the lead globally when it comes to coronavirus-related deaths per capita.

Under the new measures,  restaurants will be able to open their outdoor gardens and spaces from 1 April. Gyms, cinemas, theatres, galleries and museums will also open that day and will be able to operate at 30% capacity.

Kindergartens and nurseries will reopen after 5 April, and from 12 April, when the spring vacation is over, students will be allowed to return to class.

In this extremely difficult situation, “this is the optimal option between the application of restrictive measures and people’s mental health,” said Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.

“There will be a relaxation of the measures. On Tuesday, many experts commented on what should happen and I made this decision,” said Health Minister Kostadin Angelov.

However, nightclubs, bars and disco clubs will remain closed until the end of April. Large stores with an area of ​​over 300 square metres remain closed, however, exceptions are possible for hypermarkets if they can provide outdoor shopping spaces. Conferences, seminars and excursions also remain prohibited. “We do not currently envisage indoor events until the end of April,” Angelov said.

The parliamentary elections in Bulgaria will be held on 4 April and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB party leads the polls with 3 to 5% ahead of the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)

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