Sofia, January 14 (BTA) –
24 Chassa devotes a full page to the first sitting of the last, 11th session, of the present Parliament, which receives coverage in all the other dailies. The highlights according to 24 Chassa are: GERB called for joint action on the home stretch and urged the President to set a date for the parliamentary elections as soon as possible so that the parties and the institutions can prepare for them. The power-sharing United Patriots are adamant that the Election Code must not be amended before the elections. The Bulgarian Socialist Party expects the elections to bring about change. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms said the elections this spring would be the most important since 1989 when democratic changes began. The Volya group reminded the MPs that the people is their employer and its trust has to be won.
24 Chassa also lists the (im)possible ideas for holding the elections which cropped up during the President’s consultations with political parties, expat Bulgarians and the election administration, which focused on voting amid the pandemic. The daily says just two of the catalogued ideas will be put into practice: first, mobile ballot boxes for quarantined people will be introduced through an amendment to the Act on the Measures and Actions during the State of Emergency Declared by a Resolution of the National Assembly of 13 March 2020; and second, the State will provide personal protective equipment for the members of the election commissions.
Dnevnik writes that the government approved former TV host and model Violeta Sechkova, 34, now manager of Samsung’s official retailer Sinopoint EOOD, as the new honorary consul of the Republic of Korea with her seat in Plovdiv. Sechkova is Alexander Staliiski’s girlfriend, and Staliiski is reportedly close to Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. Fugitive banker Tzvetan Vassilev, the former majority owner of the bankrupt Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank), has referred to Staliiski as the person sent by Borissov to collect racketeering money. Staliiski and Sechkova had the largest deposits with Corpbank, a total of 30 million leva and 5 million euro, says Dnevnik.
Troud and Monitor splash that the Justice Ministry has proposed new measures to crack down on domestic violence. Troud says the additional protection will include a ban on abusers to contact the victim by phone, email and on the social networks. Batterers will not be licensed to own guns or will lose their licence. The amendments to the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act also envisage additional protection of child victims or witnesses of domestic violence, who can get psychological assistance or can be placed in a refuge or emergency accommodation. The Justice Ministry cites data showing that the 112 emergency phone number received 4,875 reports of domestic violence between January 1 and May 13, 2020, of which 4,056 calls were made during the COVID state of emergency between March 13 and May 13. Troud quotes Ombudsman Diana Kovacheva as saying the proposed scrapping of the Penal Code requirement for reporting of systemic violence is the key change. Kovacheva, who was involved in the drafting of the amendments, expects them to be adopted by the present Parliament, whose term ends on March 26.
24 Chassa stresses that the draft adds economic and psychological violence to physical violence and criminalizes rape within marriage.
A commentary in Monitor asks “Is This the End of the Abuser Beast at Home”. The author says the proposed revisions were long delayed.
24 Chassa reports that the Sofia City Court Wednesday published an 82-page judgment adjudicating Vassil Bojkov’s New Games company bankrupt. The company of the fugitive gambling magnate charged with 18 crimes still owes 17.7 million leva in lottery wins.
On its front page, Monitor quotes Health Minister Kostadin Angelov as saying that Bulgaria expects deliveries of at least 7.5 million more COVID vaccines.
Douma leads on the mass testing of teachers with antigen tests scheduled to start on January 25. Decisions about the return to in-person classes for all school students will be based on the test results. The Health Minister specified that this will be a partial school reopening for students in Grades 5 to 12. The second stage of vaccination starts at the end of next week with the residents of care homes, of whom 21 per cent (about 3,000 people) have said they want to get a vaccine. Troud also has this story, with the addition that teachers will be inoculated during the second stage, and that the first stage is ending in January.
Troud has a brief comparison of the known parameters of four vaccines: of Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V. A separate story quotes the Health Minister as saying that Bulgaria expects deliveries of nearly 2 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from the additional doses bought by the European Commission, which will be delivered starting in the second quarter of 2021. Kostadin Angelov stressed that with 6,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine due to be received by the end of January and 4.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, there will be enough for all Bulgarians.
Dr Momchil Baev, a public health expert, says in an interview in Monitor that school reopening will push up new infections by over 20 per cent. He also talks about the pandemic’s impact on the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Programme, in which he is involved. Screening for HIV/AIDS nearly stopped, he says, adding that the programme’s number one priority in 2021-2025 should be the inclusion of home HIV tests which ensure that infected people are diagnosed at an early stage.
Quoting the bioRxiv website, 24 Chassa reports that hot-water extracts of the medicinal plant Artemisia annua, known as sweet wormwood, prevent in vitro replication of SARS-CoV-2.
Troud reports that a record large number of newly unemployed people, 15,731, registered with job centres between January 4 and 10, while 3,346 people found jobs. The previous record was set in the third week of April 2020. A drop in registrations with the job centres in the second half of December could be the explanation for this increase.
Telegraf checked which businesses made a profit during the pandemic and found that IT companies posted an increase in revenues by 380 million leva in 2020. The Bulgarian Association of Software Companies (BASSCOM) said the IT industry is expected to post revenues of 4,255 million leva in 2020. However, their revenue growth decelerated from 2019 as they develop products for sectors affected by the corona crisis, including aviation, tourism and the hospitality industry. Online shops and courier companies also did well last year. More than 1.5 million consumers in Bulgaria shopped online, spending an average of 636 euro in 2020.
A headline in 24 Chassa sums up the findings of a poll among the large retail chains: “Shops Sell 100% Bulgarian Farmed Meat, Imported Vegetables”. The story goes on to explain that only fresh meat is Bulgarian farmed, while most of the processed meat (e.g. two thirds of processed pork) is imported.
24 Chassa says the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) Wednesday announced the yellow mealworm safe for human consumption, warning that allergic reactions are possible. This is the first step before the national authorities of the member states decide whether to approve the sale of insect-based snacks, biscuits, protein bars and other foods. EFSA is to pronounce on 14 more insect species, from crickets to grasshoppers.
Monitor and 24 Chassa report that on Wednesday the government allocated an extra 40 million leva for job retention in tourism and transport until the end of March. The money is available under Operational Programme Human Resources Development.
Troud devotes a full page to the important things Bulgarian businesses should know about trade with the UK after Brexit.
BTA – DIRECTOR GENERAL NOMINEES
Douma reports that the trade unions at the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) insist that Parliament should elect as quickly as possible a director general in place of Maxim Minchev, who died of COVID last November after 17 years at BTA’s helm. In a letter to the Parliamentary Culture and Media Committee, the trade unions at BTA nominated journalist and lawyer Kiril Vulchev, who started off as a reporter at the news agency and was then its legal adviser. He has hosted a weekly talk show on Darik Radio since 1994.
The skybox in 24 Chassa says BTA needs Vulchev to unite journalists as Minchev did. “There is one media outlet, BTA, whose work is firmly backed by Parliament. It is no coincidence that only the MPs can nominate and elect its director,” says journalist Paola Husein, and goes on to catalogue some of the possible candidates and to explain what makes Kiril Vulchev a good candidate. The daily also has an article by Vulchev (“Minchev and Macedonia,” published on darikradio.bg shortly after Minchev’s death), in which he sets forth his views on the way BTA should develop.
24 Chassa says on its front page that now the torrential rains have stopped, Bulgaria is in for freezing cold weather, with temperatures as low as minus 15C. Climatologist Prof. Georgi Rachev forecasts cold weather in March and April.
Telegraf says rivers swollen by torrential rains in the last few days have deposited mountains of debris, mostly plastic waste, in the streets.
24 Chassa profiles the “QAnon Shaman”, Navy veteran Jacob Anthony Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, of Arizona, who was charged with storming the Capitol.