Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Bulgaria's coronavirus-related state of emergency to expire May 13; no extension planned. Many restrictions remain in place.

This alert affects Bulgaria

This alert began 12 May 2020 19:20 GMT and is scheduled to expire 13 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Summary
Bulgarian authorities do not intend to extend the nation's existing health state of emergency beyond its current May 13 expiration date. Still, though the government has eased certain restrictions that were implemented as part of its effort to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), many will remain in place.

Authorities have allowed museums, galleries, cinemas, and libraries to reopen as of 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 face masks 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.

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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