Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Bulgaria eases certain COVID-19-related restrictions from May 18, allowing malls and gyms to reopen. Other restrictions remain in place.

This alert affects Bulgaria

This alert began 18 May 2020 18:54 GMT and is scheduled to expire 08 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Easing of restrictions; significant travel and business disruptions

Bulgarian authorities eased certain coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-related restrictions from May 18, allowing shopping malls except for dining and entertainment areas with some exceptions, and gyms with a maximum of 1 customer per 4 square meters (43 square feet) to reopen.

Previously, authorities downgraded the health state of emergency to a declaration of an epidemic situation, which will last until at least June 14. Although the government has eased certain related restrictions, many remain in place.

Authorities allowed museums, galleries, cinemas, and libraries to reopen May 11, provided they ensure compliance with social-distancing standards. Outdoor sports are allowed for groups of up to 10 people; however, residents must still wear protective facemasks when riding public transport. On May 9, the government lifted the nationwide ban on intercity travel and allowed public spaces, including parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor sporting facilities, to reopen. Still, some nonessential businesses remain closed.

Sofia International Airport (SOF) remains open, albeit operating on a severely reduced schedule. All arriving international passengers must self-isolate for 14 days.

In addition to the EU's ban on nonresidents entering the bloc, the administration in Sofia has indefinitely barred entry to nonresidents of Bulgaria traveling from Austria, Spain, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Luxembourg. Authorities may extend or otherwise amend restrictions in the coming days in response to disease activity in the country.

Background and Analysis
The measures taken by the government of Bulgaria are similar to actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. 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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