Severity: Warning Alert

Exit/Entry: Bulgaria to ease COVID-19-related restrictions for travelers from 10 countries from July 28; other restrictions remain in place.

  • Alert Begins: 27 Jul 2020 08:36 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 17 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions

Bulgarian authorities will ease the country's coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-related restrictions from July 28. From this date, travelers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Kosovo, Kuwait, Moldova, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, and Serbia will be allowed entry with a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test no older than 72 hours; travelers from Ukraine will be allowed entry under the same conditions from July 30.

Bulgaria currently allows citizens of the EU and the Schengen Area, as well as Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and the Republic of Uruguay to enter the country without restrictions. Additionally, all medical professionals, transport staff, foreign officials, seasonal workers, and persons traveling for humanitarian reasons are being granted entry with a negative COVID-19 PCR test regardless of their country of citizenship. This measure is likely an attempt to attract more tourists to the country after pressure from the tourism sector that has struggled in the first two months of the high-tourist season.

Authorities previously extended the nation's epidemic emergency until July 31. The move was in response to a nationwide increase in infection rates. Bulgaria began easing its COVID-19-related restrictions May 9 when the government lifted its nationwide ban on intercity travel and allowed various public spaces to reopen. Authorities have since allowed most non-essential businesses to resume operations provided they comply with certain mandates aimed at preventing any spike in COVID-19 activity. Such directives include adhering to social distancing guidelines, implementing enhanced sanitation procedures, and operating at reduced capacity, among other things. Face coverings are mandatory in all indoor public spaces. Sofia International Airport (SOF) remains open, albeit operating on a severely reduced schedule.

Authorities may extend or otherwise amend restrictions in the coming days in response to disease activity in the country.

Background and Analysis
While Bulgaria has previously taken steps to ease COVID-19 restrictions, authorities warned that restrictive measures could be reintroduced if disease activity in the country increases. Mandatory social distancing measures and use of facemasks in public places and on public transport, as well as widespread voluntary “self-policing” by residents, will assist in reducing the potential for contagion, negating the necessity for a large-scale, blanket reintroduction of significant restrictions.

COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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