President Rumen Radev Held a Working Meeting to Discuss COVID situation in Bulgaria
President Rumen Radev held a working meeting with several members of the caretaker government to discuss the COVID situation and a possible new wave in infections.
He commended caretaker Health Minister Stoycho Katsarov for his hard work and slammed the previous government for a chaotic and inadequate approach to the pandemic. Prime Minister Stefan Yanev, the Health Minister, Finance Minister Assen Vassilev and Labour and Social Policy Minister Gulub Donev presented reports on various aspects of the COVID crisis.
The President said that it is important to have measures clearly planned as the experts are warning of a looming new wave of infections. He also said that the meeting is not to discuss and decide on a new lockdown but to give the public information "because Bulgarian people have a right to know how the government is managing the crisis and what measures are planned". Bulgaria was third in the EU and eighth in the world in terms of COVID mortality, Radev recalled.
Prime Minister Yanev said that the government is managing multiple crisis, referring also to the wildfire season in Bulgaria and its neighbours. He argued that it is important to have flexible measures for businesses and the administration in a possible fourth wave in Bulgaria, and these should be set out in the pandemic management plan. "We should think twice when we lock down businesses because some may not reopen after that," he said.
Health Minister Katsarov said that a budget revision should be approved as a matter of emergency by Parliament because the available funding for front-line workers and for the needs of the health system in a possible fourth wave, has been used up. The budget of the National Health Insurance Fund also needs to be revised because it is playing a key role in the processes. The caretaker government has already drafted revisions of both budgets and put them forward for parliamentary approval.
Katsarov said he would be happy to see Parliament adopt as its own the pandemic management plan so that it is more than the Health Ministry plan and be embraced by all political parties to ensure political commitment. The Minister said that Bulgaria has enough protective clothing and disinfectants at this stage. Statistical trends show that within 10 days Bulgaria will be in the orange zone for COVID which means more than 100 infected in 100,000 population on a 14-day basis.
All necessary measures for that have been planned for the health system as well as a standard safety protocol, Katsarov said. He said that it is hard to change the low level of vaccinations in Bulgaria, which he blamed on "a catastrophic start of the vaccination campaign" and contradictory messages which provided breeding ground for vaccine hesitancy that is so hard to change now. "One satisfactory thing is that close to 70 per cent of the medics have had their jab and another is the relatively high share of vaccinated older people," Katsarov added. He added that older people, unfortuinately, was not a priority group for vaccination in January and February, and that cost 10,000 lives.
Tourism Minister Stela Baltova said that tourism is getting back to life and the ongoing season is "normal" with the numbers of foreign visitors reaching last year's levels. She called for predictability in the anti-COVID measures and especially the closing of businesses "because tourism involves hefty investment and also valuable human capital may be lost"./BTA
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