Bulgaria to ease coronavirus restrictions as cases drop

Bulgaria to ease coronavirus restrictions as cases drop

Bulgaria plans to lift the obligatory Covid-19 “green certificate” for entry to restaurants, shopping malls and other public venues from March 20 as coronavirus infections ease, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Monday.

The health pass – a digital or paper certificate showing someone has been vaccinated, tested negative or recently recovered from the virus – was made obligatory for most indoor spaces in Bulgaria last October.

Its introduction has prompted a series of protests in the European Union’s least vaccinated member state, angering bar and restaurant owners and anti-vaccine activists. A massive new protest is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Balkan country of 7 million people has seen a double-digit drop in new coronavirus cases on a weekly basis in the past three weeks. On Monday, it reported 1,235 new daily infections, compared with more than 12,000 new cases registered on January 26.

“We managed to pass through the Omicron wave without massive closures of schools or businesses … Our forecasts show that around March 20 it would be possible to end all restrictions in the country linked to the Green Certificate,” Petkov told reporters.

Petkov said his government would keep urging Bulgarians to get vaccinated and said the certificate would still be needed for those who want to travel to other European Union countries.

The Balkan country will start easing restrictions from February 24, when owners of public venues such as shopping malls, cinemas, gyms and bars will be allowed to grant access to customers who do not have a green certificate.

From March 5, all foreign travelers who have a green certificate will be allowed entry to Bulgaria, a move that the Black Sea country hopes will give a boost to its tourism industry.

As of March 20, if all goes according to the plan, the health pass will only be used to facilitate travel abroad, the country’s chief health inspector Angel Kunchev said. [Reuters]

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