Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: As of April 17, movement in and out of Sofia, Bulgaria, is indefinitely prohibited to combat COVID-19; flights to UK remain suspended.

This alert affects Bulgaria

This alert began 17 Apr 2020 10:50 GMT and is scheduled to expire 13 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Summary
As of April 17, authorities have prohibited all movement by private vehicles in and out of Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, in order to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The ban also applies to intercity buses. Freight, emergency services and public utility vehicles are exempt. Traffic within Sofia is not being restricted at this time. Additionally, direct flights between Bulgaria and the UK have been indefinitely suspended, including repatriation and humanitarian flights.

Bulgaria previously introduced a number of measures to combat COVID-19. A state of emergency is in effect until at least May 13. Residents may only leave their homes to procure essential items, walk dogs, or seek emergency medical care. All persons are required to wear a face covering in public. Nonessential travel between towns and cities is prohibited, with the exception of emergency services personnel, security forces, and workers in other essential services. All nonessential businesses are closed. Essential businesses include supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks. Persons under the age of 60 are prohibited from going to grocery stores 0830-1030 daily. Residents are prohibited from visiting various public spaces, including parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor sporting facilities. Residents may not gather in groups of more than two persons. All education facilities are closed.

In addition to the EU-wide 30-day ban on non-EU citizens entering the region, Bulgarian authorities have indefinitely barred entry to nonresident persons traveling from Austria, Spain, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Luxembourg. Authorities may tighten or amend preventive measures in the coming days in response to disease activity in the country.

Background and Analysis
The measures taken by the government of Bulgaria correspond with similar 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.

Resources
Bulgaria Coronavirus Portal: https://coronavirus.bg/

World Health Organisation (WHO): www.who.int