Bulgaria will altogether abolish the green pass on 20 March and start easing many measures this week, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov announced on Monday.
The decision came only two days before a national protest, organised by the far-right pro-Russian Vazrazhdane (Revival) party, which uses the population’s resistance to COVID-19 measures to generate distrust of the EU.
“We managed to get through the Omicron wave without mass closures of schools and businesses,” said Petkov, adding that the government will continue to encourage vaccination.
“We will motivate Bulgarians to get vaccinated so that the next waves are smaller and have less influence on the healthcare system,” Petkov also said.
Bulgaria is the EU country with the least citizens vaccinated against COVID-19. Only 30% of Bulgarians have received two doses, and just over 10% have received three. The country has 35,000 COVID-19-related deaths and ranks second in the world in per capita mortality after Peru.
Restrictions will be lifted in three steps, with the main easing of measures starting at the end of this week. From 24 February, shop and restaurant owners will be serving customers without a green certificate at their discretion. The requirement for a green pass remains only for employees.
From 5 March, all customers will be served without the requirement for a green certificate, regardless of the personal preference of the owners. The need for a green pass for staff remains.
From 20 March, the green pass will be removed entirely, including for employees. The government has not yet abolished the mandatory wearing of masks in closed public places and school testing.
Despite the abolition of the green pass, economic measures to support Bulgarian business will be maintained until the end of June.