Sofia, October 21 (BTA) –
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria soared to 1,336 on Monday, SegaBG.com reports, citing data from the national coronavirus web portal. This is 312 more new cases than on Sunday. It should be noted, however, that the peak came after a record-high number of PCR tests: 11,505. This actually brought the positivity rate down from 23 per cent to 12 per cent. Eleven patients died on Monday, bringing the death toll to 1,019.
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The reintroduction of a requirement for Bulgarians to wear face masks outdoors as well as indoors in the midst of a worsening COVID-19 situation is a leading topic in the national news media. Wearing a mask outdoors will be compulsory from Thursday, October 22 until the end of November.
Health Minister Kostadin Angelov is quoted in the main story of Troud as saying that those who need to buy masks will have one day on Wednesday to do so before the new rule becomes effective. The way that children are supposed to apply the rule will be discussed with Education and Science Minister Krassimir Vulchev, Angelov added. The daily notes that, according to the harmonized EU standard, only three classes of masks ensure a high degree (over 50 per cent) of protection from coronavirus infection: FFP1 (which can filter 50 per cent of the air), FFP2 (92 per cent) and FFP3 (98 per cent). Ordinary cloth masks which are most commonly available in stores are far less efficient, the paper warns.
The fact that people will have to wear a face mask in open as well as closed public spaces while bars, restaurants and discos will still be allowed to operate until late at night is highlighted in the main story of Douma. The new requirement has been supported by epidemiology expert councils. Experts are also in favour of reducing the standard quarantine period from 14 to 10 days, provided that the respective person shows no clinical symptoms at the end of the 10-day period. No further tightening of the anti-COVID measures is planned for now at the national level, but in regions where the situation is deteriorating the authorities may take special measures, Douma says.
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International relations expert Nina Dyulgerova tells Troud that COVID-19 is a political instrument to change the world. She says: “Yes, COVID-19 is a purely political instrument, but in this case humanity is presented with the challenge to survive, which is brought to it by very aggressive political propaganda, with the coronavirus being the main instrument. COVID-19, the economic recession, the re-activation of insecurity zones practically contribute to a deliberately created vast picture of instability in the contemporary world.”
THE VIRUS AND THE PRESIDENT
“An embarrassing international incident” in Estonia over Bulgarian President Rumen Radev in connection with the COVID-positive commander of the Bulgarian Air Force is covered in the main story of 24 Chassa. The story is headlined: “Is Contact with Infected Person Shameful? Silence Is Dangerous.”
It says that Radev cut short his visit to Estonia after his hosts learned via their own channels that he had been in contact with a COVID-positive person back in Bulgaria. Radev left for Tallinn on Monday to participate in a summit meeting of the Three Seas Initiative. He and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda were the only foreign in-person participants in what was basically an online meeting. The bilateral part of Radev’s official visit to Estonia was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. It was cancelled, however, after the authorities in Tallinn learned of Radev’s recent contact with a person who had coronavirus. The reason for the cancellation was first reported by the Russian news agency Interfax.
The news was confirmed officially by Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaidat in a Facebook post, 24 Chassa goes on to say. The Bulgarian President’s press secretariat provided a different explanation. It said that Radev and Kaljulaidat had a telephone conversation on Tuesday morning and decided to postpone the bilateral part of the Bulgarian President’s visit “due to the complicated coronavirus situation and the impossibility to carry out all the elements planned for the visit’s agenda.”
Around 11:30 am Bulgarian time on Tuesday, Kaljulaidat wrote on Facebook that Radev and his delegation were quarantined (“isolated in the hotel”). That was why the Bulgarian President did not attend Monday’s Three Seas Initiative dinner either, she wrote. At 3:10 pm Radev’s press secretariat circulated a press release saying that the President “has not been in contact with a person who, by the time in question, had tested positive for coronavirus.” The press secretariat denied the report about the Bulgarians’ quarantine in Tallinn. A coronavirus test was performed on Radev already on the first day of the visit, it said.
The COVID-positive person with whom Radev had been in contact is Major General Dimiter Petrov, Commander of the Bulgarian Air Force, the daily says. According to unofficial information, Petrov showed symptoms of the disease and was hospitalized. On October 16 he and Radev attended an indoor Air Force anniversary celebration. Photos circulated by the President’s press secretariat show that the officials at the ceremony were not wearing masks. A day later Maj. Gen. Petrov felt sick, and on October 18 he tested positive for COVID-19.
The Air Force ceremony was also attended by Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov and the Chief of Defence, Admiral Emil Eftimov. On Sunday Karakachanov went on self-isolation, according to the Defence Ministry. On Monday he had a PCR test which produced a negative result. Another test is planned on Wednesday, and if it is negative too, Karakachanov will end his self-isolation. Meanwhile, Health Minister Kostadin Angelov said that, on Sunday, Adm. Eftimov notified the President about Maj. Gen. Petrov’s infection.
SegaBG.com quotes the Health Minister as saying at an extraordinary briefing: “Regulations that are currently effective will be applied to the President. […] From the moment he arrives in Bulgaria he is considered a contact. He will be quarantined. He will be offered a PCR test at the airport and will be quarantined until the test results come out.”
Arriving at Sofia Airport, Radev described the Tallinn episode as “an active measure,” i.e. an act of political warfare against him. According to the President, people from among the power-holders in Bulgaria, whom he ironically called “well-wishers,” were too eager to share their theory with the Estonian authorities. “Neither me nor my delegation or you [the accompanying journalists] were quarantined in Estonia,” he said, as quoted by the website. He explained that he had two tests in less than a week: on October 13 (before travelling to Greece) and on October 19 (in Estonia). Both of them yielded negative results, Radev said. He gave the journalists a copy of the test records.
Instead of the Supreme Judicial Council carrying out a disciplinary check to find whether Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev has violated the basic principles of democracy, Geshev is trying to push through fundamental changes to the Criminal Procedure Code which would probably be sealed by the parliamentary majority, SegaBG.com says in one of its top stories. And the parliamentary majority will hardly wonder whether the changes could make things too easy for the prosecution service, contrary to the public interest and human rights. The most blatant proposal is to abolish the third court instance for serious crimes, which means abolishing the controls for lawfulness.
The Partnership Agreement which Bulgaria will send to Brussels to make its case for 9.7 billion euro in funding for the country in the next seven years describes a strikingly different picture of Bulgaria compared to the prosperous nation cheerfully presented by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov on other occasions, MediaPool.bg says in its top story. The agreement has been put up on the government website Strategy.bg for public consultation. The priorities identified in it are based on an analysis of the country’s social and economic development between 2007 and 2017, which presents a deplorable situation. To give just one example, Bulgaria is described as “the most energy intensive” and “the most carbon intensive” economy in the EU.
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The Finance Ministry expects that the Bulgarian economy will contract by just 3 per cent in 2020, Capital.bg says, noting that this is one of the most optimistic forecasts. In 2021, the ministry expects GDP to grow by 2.5 per cent, bringing the national economy back to its pre-crisis level recorded in 2019: around 125 billion leva in nominal GDP.
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There are clear signals for a recovery of the world economy, and although investors are still cautious, Bulgaria stands a chance of attracting new companies, Capital.bg says. This was one of the main conclusions drawn by the participants in a discussion titled: “Bulgaria as a Desired Investment Destination: The Perspective of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry.” The discussion was part of the website’s annual event, Industry 4.0.