COVID-19 in Bulgaria: Children from 1st to 4th Grade can Return to Class in 7 to 10 days
The return of children to school should take place in stages, first - 1st-4th grade. This could happen in 7 to 10 days if the Ministry of Finance provides the necessary funds for tests for children and parents agree to be tested, said Health Minister Dr. Stoycho Katsarov at an extraordinary meeting of the caretaker government with President Rumen Radev.
The meeting began in the absence of Prime Minister Stefan Yanev, whom the head of state apologized for without giving a reason.
The main appeal of the head of state was the return of children to school as soon as possible, especially those from 1st to 4th grade. He asked for clarification on this issue first.
Katsarov promised a return soon, but only if funds are provided for sparing tests, in which the more drastic method of taking a nose sample is not necessary, as well as if the parents agree for the children to be tested.
"As long as I am the Minister of Health, I will not allow it to interfere with the children's noses,"Katsarov said, proposing the provision of tests in the form of lollipops, through saliva, "without harming it."
When testing the entrance, if a child turns out to be positive, they will not enter school, will not be in contact with their classmates and will not have to quarantine the whole class, explained Minister Katsarov.
The Minister of Education, Prof. Nikolay Denkov, also insists on an entrance filter and gentle tests for children and teachers. He supports the current closure due to the drastic change in the epidemic.
"From September 15 to October 10, quarantined teachers increased about 3 times, and quarantined children - five times. In other words, we have 12 thousand quarantined children and youth in schools and 2,000 children in kindergartens. The environment in which the school began year has changed significantly.
Around September 15, 6% of the patients in the country were children from 0 to 19. In the last 15 days the percentage is 10-12. In schools, due to the high concentration of children, we infect children with each other and this creates a risk to their health and life.
In the beginning, about 100 children were infected per day, now there are 400-500. We have a significant change in the environment in which children learn.
The Ministry of Health has rightly called for a drastic change in the way schools are entered. We accept the criticism that this was introduced in a short period of time. People were not prepared, but the decision is the right one," Denkov stressed.
The Minister of Finance Valeri Belchev, for his part, assured: "The Ministry of Finance will not save a penny. Every lev will be properly insured. Colleagues, you will receive our full support."
"I will accept the election result with humility"
At the beginning of the meeting, President Radev said he knew how "ungrateful" of a step the caretaker government had taken in introducing a requirement for green certificates of access; that he is aware of the negative effect of this decision before the elections, but "the life of our compatriots is more important than the election result, which he will accept with humility". However, the head of state again criticized the ministers for introducing the measures too quickly and not giving people time to adapt.
What did the president say?
"The situation in the country is really tense despite the proportional measures applied. In recent days, the number of sick and dead Bulgarians is alarmingly high and hospitals are suffocating. The same picture is observed in Eastern European countries, where vaccination rates are low. I understand that the alternatives to the caretaker government were either to close the country completely, following the example of previous rulers, or to take a flexible and open approach. We still remember the expulsion of people from the gardens, the blockade of the cities, the damage to the economy, the complete demise of social and cultural life, from which we still cannot recover. % of the population are vaccinated.
Previous rulers have instilled extreme distrust in vaccines, which are the most reliable protection against the coronavirus. It was clear that certain parties and presidential candidates would take advantage of the situation, speculate, hysterize, demand your resignation and sabotage your actions without having the courage to offer an alternative or a long-term solution. They count the votes, but we count the sick and the dead, because the management responsibility lies with us. I am fully aware of the negative effect of this decision, especially in the days before the elections, but as a person of duty to me, the priority is the people, not the rating. The life of our compatriots is more important to me than the election result, which I will accept with humility. And when I say "I am with you", it means that I am ready to pay the price of all the battles we have to fight to protect the life and health of the Bulgarians. Therefore, despite the high price, I supported your decision because it leaves society and economic life open. It gives us freedom of choice, it takes our society out of the pernicious cycle of breathing from lockdown to lockdown. However, the way in which these measures have been introduced has been severely criticized. People have not been given enough time to adapt to these measures, and it is understandable that this has caused stress and outrage among people. But I also want to ask some questions that excite Bulgarians and I expect the caretaker government to give an answer and an adequate solution as soon as possible.
In first place, children and their parents who have spent a year out of school are the most affected by these measures, so I expect the priority in the work of the government to be to return children to class as soon as possible, especially from first to fourth grade, guaranteeing the health of children and teachers. "
The President pointed out that he received information that in many places, instead of the promised free tests, people without certificates pay 15 to 40 leva for a test to get a job. It is inadmissible for a worker who has chosen not to be vaccinated, to pay BGN 80 to go to work, he was indignant and asked the Ministry of Health to check the situation and provide the promised free tests.
Katsarov replied that all contracts and tests would be signed by noon on Monday.
The President opened another topic: are there any diseases for which vaccination is contraindicated and should these people not be allowed to enjoy all the rights of the vaccinated so that they are not discriminated against?
"I also expect a clear answer and instructions to GPs and hospitals for vaccination or other solutions for people with specific diseases who hear very contradictory advice," Radev said. Katsarov replied:
"No vaccine has absolute contraindications. I will re-assign expert advice to review and if they identify a disease that is contraindicated, there is a high risk that these people will be allowed to take an active part in economic and social life, even though they do not have the relevant certificate ".
The President also called for effective control, without which the introduction of measures would not have an effect.
Against the background of the sharp division in society "for" and "against" vaccines, he strongly opposed mandatory vaccinations:
"Vaccination should never be a coercive act, but a voluntary decision of people who not only take care of their health, but are aware of their responsibility to their loved ones and society."
However, he added that "everyone has the right to an opinion, but statistics are not interested in him" and that "the most reliable method is vaccination". "We should not recklessly leave our fate to the whims of luck," he advised.
The President thanked the people who had been vaccinated and the doctors, nurses and paramedics who "are dedicated to their duties in this tense situation."
Regarding the medics, the head of the National Health Insurance Fund, who was invited to the meeting, announced that from next month all medics will receive BGN 1,200 per month for work on the first line with COVID.
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