Sofia, June 11 (BTA) –
The southern town of Nova Zagora is the newest coronavirus hotspot in Bulgaria, 24 Chassa reports. Nationwide, the steep rise in infected people continued on Tuesday and Wednesday. Three new deaths were reported, bringing the total to 167.
The government extended the national epidemic emergency by 15 days until June 30 on a proposal by the National Coronavirus Task Force, the daily goes on to say. No new measures are planned. Face masks remain compulsory to wear in public transport vehicles, but overall, they will be optional in indoor public spaces. “Ours are the most liberal measures in the world, and if we succeed with them, we will be a model to emulate,” Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said.
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“Our aim is to keep the infection under control so that it does not overwhelm our healthcare system and does not impede socio-economic life,” Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kounchev told a briefing, as quoted by StandartNews.com. He warned that things are not going well as the coronavirus is showing features which Bulgaria is not very familiar with. “There is something in the way the coronavirus is spreading that is extremely strange,” Kounchev said.
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Allegations that several teachers from a Sofia kindergarten made a weekend trip to the southwestern town of Surnitsa, which is a COVID-19 hotspot, alarmed the Sofia Regional Health Inspectorate (RHI) and Sofia City Hall and angered Prime Minister Borissov, Troud reports. Two groups of kids in the kindergarten were quarantined and all staff members underwent PCR tests after quick-test results on three teachers proved positive.
The PCR test results, however, were negative and the kindergarten continued to function. Meanwhile, the teachers who were suspected to have travelled to Surnitsa said they did not actually make the trip. Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova commented: “Whether they went there or joked about it, the consequences are the same. This is irresponsible behaviour.” Prime Minister Borissov exclaimed: “It drove me mad, seeing that there are people who can joke about the matter in such a way.” A second round of PCR tests will be made at the kindergarten in a few days.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
One Bulgarian in five believes that Bill Gates is behind the COVID-19 pandemic, and thinks that the secret aim of future mass vaccination against coronavirus is to microchip the population in order to control it. Over 2.3 million Bulgarians hold that COVID-19 is an artificially created disease, 24 Chassa reports in its main story, unveiling the findings of a survey commissioned by the daily and conducted by the Trend Research Centre earlier in June.
The survey also looked at the moods of Bulgarians after the relaxation of the anti-epidemic measures. Some 76 per cent of respondents find that Bulgaria has managed to contain the epidemic, while 10 per cent say the opposite. Two interviewees in three state that they have returned completely to their normal way of life.
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Germany supported an idea of Atlantic Club of Bulgaria President and former foreign minister Solomon Passy and 27 other Bulgarian and international experts to build a health shield for Europe, 24 Chassa reports. German Health Minister Jens Spahn said that it is indeed necessary to build a European alliance, a kind of “Health NATO,” for mutual assistance in crisis situations, such as the coronavirus pandemic.
The Health Shield Europe Initiative is also discussed by former Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev in a separate article in the same daily. Plevneliev, who is one of the people who set forth the initiative, says that the European Commission has invited them to set up a working group.
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“80% of Bulgarians See the Corruption,” runs the main headline in Douma. The paper cites data presented by the European Commission, showing that 80 per cent of Bulgarians believe that there is corruption in their country. This compares to an average of 71 per cent in the EU member states. One Bulgarian in two and one EU citizen in three says that corruption has increased in their country over the last three years.
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The main ruling GERB party eventually declined to support the idea of its partner, the VMRO (of the United Patriots power-sharing coalition), to set up volunteer forces to assist the police, SegaBG.com reports. The proposal was approved by the National Assembly Internal Security Committee on second reading, but once it reached the plenary chamber, GERB pulled out as the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) put up fierce resistance. This enraged the VMRO, the website notes.
The MPs differed over whether the volunteers should be allowed to check people’s IDs. The BSP for Bulgaria was startled. “This violates the principle of volunteer groups,” Rosen Malinov warned. The MRF were particularly indignant, saying that this will lead to diarchy in small settlements and to practices that smack of Nazism.
After a break in the plenary proceedings, most MPs refrained from voting and the proposal was thus defeated. Piqued, the United Patriots walked out of the chamber and threatened that they will not treat GERB as coalition partners any more. Iskren Vesselinov said: “If they feel that the MRF are dearer to them, they should form a minority government.”
Valeri Simeonov, who leads the NFSB (the VMRO’s partner in the United Patriots), indicated that the coalition with GERB remains. Simeonov told journalists: “If you are waiting for the news that the coalition is dead, you don’t have it yet.”
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In its video channel “Here and Now with Svetla Petrova,” the news website SegaBG.com presents an interview with EU law expert Greta Ganeva, entitled “Many Institutions Work on Business Acquisition Orders.” In the interview, Ganeva says it will soon become clear that the Specialized Prosecution Office works on piecemeal orders, and the mechanism it uses for the purpose will be exposed.
According to her, the prosecution service, along with the National Revenue Agency and other institutions, is involved in a business acquisition scheme. “I asked the police for assistance in such a case, but they did not provide any assistance,” Ganeva says. According to her, it is noteworthy that many of the disclosures come from a defendant in a trial whom the politicians and the prosecutors do not want to hear.
Bulgaria no longer meets all numeric criteria for adopting the euro, because inflation in the country is higher than the benchmark, Capital.bg says. Moreover, the country needs further reforms to improve its business climate, the quality of its institutions and the fight against corruption. This transpired from the latest convergence reports by the European Commission and the European Central Bank. Such reports are published once every two years to review the progress of non-euro-area EU member states towards joining the area.
The website comments that, in theory, the two reports should not affect Bulgaria’s plans to join ERM II, the so-called “waiting room” for euro area membership; this is even stated explicitly in the European Commission report. Rather than that, the two publications are usually scrutinized for possible signs between the lines or changes of tone which may indicate a more favourable attitude, but such signs are not really noticeable in this case.
However, the Commission’s Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis acknowledged in a statement the “encouraging progress by some countries” and welcomed Bulgaria’s and Croatia’s efforts towards joining ERM II.
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A little over 11 per cent of the money which the subscribers of the Sofia district heating company paid for its services during the last heating season should be refunded to them, Troud says in its main story. The news comes after the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission cut down heating prices for the period from August 5, 2019 until March 30, 2020. The cuts for some other cities and towns for the eight-month period are as follows: Plovdiv 5.76 per cent, Pleven 4 per cent, Bourgas 4.39 per cent, Vratsa 5.5 per cent, and Razgrad 7.7 per cent. The reductions are based on monthly price changes for natural gas and the amounts of gas consumed by the companies.
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The Bulgarian state loses at least 490 million leva annually due to fake products, StandartNews.com says in one of its top stories. This is the economic and social damage caused by counterfeit goods in just four sectors of the national economy: pharmaceuticals; cosmetics and personal hygiene products; wine and liquor; and toys and games. The data is contained in a report by the EU Intellectual Property Office. In addition to the economic losses resulting from the evasion of taxes and fees, fake products may also pose a serious health hazard, because they do not go through the necessary safety checks.