COVID19 in Bulgaria: Nightclubs, bars and restaurants open

Jun 18, 2020 No Comments by

Saturday June 13, marked three months since the State of Emergency was voted, which after May 13th was succeeded by the epidemic declaration. Apart from entry into Bulgaria, daily life is returning close to normal people as many more people are gaining confidence to go out and enjoy the warm weather interspersed with showers. I’ll take a closer look at tourism prospects in another post here soon but you’ll see below the impact in the economy is very real and being felt by many.

Monday, June 8

A toy factory in the southern town of Dospat makes headlines with a large outbreak of Covid-19 among its employees. The allegation is made that workers, fearful for losing their jobs, were taking Analgin to suppress their temperatures. The mayor of Dospat points the finger at workers coming from the town of Sarnitsa, leading to bitter words between him and the offended mayor of Sarnitsa.

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov says that the 60:40 measure, by which the state picks up 60 per cent of the payroll costs of employers in listed sectors while the employers must pay the other 40 per cent, will be extended into September. We have heard repeatedly from Labour and Social Policy Minister Denitsa Sacheva, touring the TV studios, that the measure will be widened and expanded, but details remain elusive. As it is, employers have critical of the measure for not going far enough.

Tuesday, June 9

The World Bank sees Bulgaria’s economy as shrinking by 6.2 per cent this year, before a possible recovery next year. The same day, the National Statistical Institute releases retail figures for April. Overall, retail trade turnover is down 20 per cent on the year, with the most notable being a plunge of 72 per cent in clothing and footwear sales – a consequence partly of the numerous shops in malls that were closed, and, as would be confirmed by an NSI poll the following day, plummeting consumer confidence.

Although many were awaiting the end of the epidemic declaration on June 14, on June 9 Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev says that he will be asking the government to extend it, in order to keep measures such as restrictions on entry to the country and other measures in place. Later in the week, the Cabinet agrees.

Wednesday, June 10

Bulgaria’s Parliament votes to cut VAT on restaurants sales, catering services, books and baby food from 20 per cent to nine per cent, a temporary measure to be in effect until the end of next year. Already, the Bulgarian Book Association has called for the reduction on VAT on books to be permanent, not temporary, a call made against a background of plummeting (that word tends to used a lot these days) sales figures.

Thursday, June 11

A different set of gloomy figures: European Commission statistics confirm that for the latest year since 2007, Bulgaria has the second-highest road fatality rate in the bloc. Before 2007, it was in first place (this is the kind of thing that tends to provoke ironic comments from The Sofia Globe’s readers about the country needing to put more effort into regaining the title).

This week also sees the latest in Traffic Police “special operations”, this one against driving in the emergency lane. There have been a number of these “special operations”, such as regarding speeding, another on wearing seat belts, and so on. At least some of our readers post questions asking why the Traffic Police cannot simply enforce all the road laws at once. Fair question.

Export figures for April 2020 – down close to 20 per cent compared with April 2019, while imports were down close to 31 per cent. Again, hardly surprising, the only news is in the precise scale of the downturns. When will the recovery come? It is not policy to speculate.

Friday, June 12

At a special meeting, Bulgaria’s government approves the acquisition of a stake in privately-held First Investment Bank (FIBank) in a move billed as removing the last remaining obstacle in the way of meeting all requirements to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM2), the euro zone’s “waiting room”, and the EU’s banking union. 

State intervention is quite the thing these days, considering other moves such as the move to build and put into use at least 100 petrol stations in the big cities and on the motorways within one year, and the initiative (kindly put) to make beach concession-holders cut prices for renting sunbeds and umbrellas.

The FIBank move coincides with the release of a European Investment Bank report that sees Bulgaria’s banking sector likely, to an extent, to reverse some of the gains made in recent years regarding non-performing loans.

A striking figure from the mayor of Bourgas, who says that 150 charter flights to the Black Sea city that had been scheduled for July have been cancelled, at that in a single day. Dimitar Nikolov is rather annoyed by this, as he underlines that the city and the region have among the lowest incidences of Covid-19. Bourgas is doing a “mass testing” exercise to prove this latter point, to boost its tourism chances.

Late on Friday night, Health Minister Kiril Ananiev issues a series of orders changing rules about quarantine for entrants to the country, about mask-wearing, and so on. Why oh why can this kind of thing not happen during daylight working hours?

Saturday June 13

Ananiev revises two of the orders from the previous night. One is to allow night clubs, bars and discos to open as of June 15, after having said on Friday night they must stay closed until June 30. The Health Ministry statement says that he is acting on the orders of PM Borissov. A statement by the Bulgarian Restaurant Association says that the change is the result of them having gone to see Borissov on Saturday to object to the closure order. The association says that they were told that the Friday night version was the result of a “technical error”. What this “technical error” was and how it came about is not explained.

Sunday June 14

The number of active cases has climbed since June 7 by 365 to 1371. Some are keen to point out that is the result of outbreaks in “clusters”, meaning that they are limited in geographical terms. The mathematics brainbox who advises the national operational headquarters says that he worked out that if all the restrictive measures had been observed, the epidemic would have been ending about now. 

Special thanks to Clive Leviev-Sawyer from The Sofia Globe for providing this content. For more like this be sure to contribute to the Patreon account and go to sofiaglobe


About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.
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