Severity: Warning Alert

Exit/Entry: Bulgaria extends COVID-19 epidemic emergency until Aug. 31; some entry restrictions eased from July 31.

  • Alert Begins: 31 Jul 2020 06:41 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 31 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions

Summary
Bulgarian authorities have extended the nation's coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic emergency until Aug. 31. The move is in response to a nationwide increase in infection rates and allows for easier enforcement of temporary restrictions. Additionally, as of July 31, Bulgaria began allowing citizens of Ukraine and Jordan to enter the country without first having tested negative for COVID-19 using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

Bulgaria currently allows citizens of from EU and the Schengen Area, as well as UK, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay to enter without restrictions. Travelers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Kosovo, Kuwait, Moldova, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, and Serbia are allowed entry, provided they have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to arrival. 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 citizenship.

Authorities have allowed most nonessential businesses to resume operations provided they comply with certain mandates aimed at preventing any spike in COVID-19 activity. Protective 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.

Advice
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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