Sofia, October 24 (BTA)
Multiple publications, including Troud, 24 Chassa, Telegraf and Monitor, report that Bulgaria and the US signed key documents on 5G networks security and civil nuclear power on Friday, in the presence of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith J. Krach, who is on a visit to Bulgaria, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who joined via video conference. Troud focuses on Bulgaria becoming a part of the Clean Network programme for 5G networks security initiated by the US, which already includes over 50 countries on five continents. Later, Krach told journalists that with joining the Clean Network, Bulgaria is responsible to oversee that its three mobile carriers not use technologies ”connected to the Chinese Communist Party” such as Huawei and ZTE. 24 Chassa also mentions this restriction in its title. Telegraf and Monitor focus more on joint 5G networks security and civil nuclear power plans, and quote Pompeo, who stressed the excellently done shared job for the preparation of building the 5G networks and expressed his conviction that the signing of the joint statement will guarantee the comprehensive security of the Euro-Atlantic family. In addition to 5G, the signed Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries’ governments on strategic cooperation in civil nuclear power plans to promote bilateral cooperation in line with Bulgaria’s interest in new secure civil nuclear power technologies that are developed by the US. Prime Minister Borissov said that as of today’s date, Bulgaria already has genuine diversification of natural gas as a strategic input.
Another main topic in Friday’s press, including in Troud, Monitor, Telegraf and 24 Chassa, are reforms to the pension system. Troud quotes Labour and Social Policy Minister Denitsa Sacheva , who shared plans to reduce the state pension by 10 per cent when the person also receives a second pillar pension [implemented since 2002 through participation in universal and/or professional pension funds which are established and managed by licensed pension insurance companies], not by 20 per cent as current legislation stipulates. If the legislation remains unchained many will actually receive less from two pensions than they would from just one. Other planned changes focus on the reduction mechanism for the state pension, which will be revised for more fairness, i.e. excluding maternity leave and temporary incapacity to work from reasons to reduce pension. During Question Time in Parliament, Sacheva said amendments to the Code of Social Insurance will be tabled which will allow for a six-month period during which people can transfer their second pension accounts from private pension funds to the National Social Insurance Fund. They will be able to do this from January 1 to June 30 2021. In 2021 the first workers who have paid contributions under two pensions pillars will go into retirement. These are women born in 1960, and 17,000 are due to retire in September 2021. Additionally, from January 1, 2021 the minimum pension will go up from, 250 to 300 leva and the maximum pension will go up to 1,440 leva. From July 1, 2021, all pensions will be indexed by 5 per cent, making the average pension 488,97 leva (a 18.6 per cent increase).
Troud, Telegraf and Monitor write that Prime Minister Boyko Borissov will self-isolate after being in contact with a COVID-19 positive deputy minister. Troud, frontpages a photograph of Borissov, who said that the has a negative PCR test from Friday morning. The test was conducted before the Prime Minister’s meeting with the delegation from the US. ”I get tested before international meetings and travel, in accordance with the requirements of the delegations in question. I was informed by Deputy Minister Nenekov at 4pm that he tested positive for COVID-19. I am waiting for instructions from Regional Health Inspectorate authorities and will be self-isolating until then. I have last been in contact with him [Nenkov] five days ago,” wrote Borissov on his Facebook page. Telegraf and Minister note that in addition to Nenkov, BSP for Bulgaria’s floor leader, Dragomir Stoynev, has also contracted the virus. 24 Chassa adds that Graf Ignatievo Air Base Commander, Brigadier General Nikolay Rusev, has been admitted to the Military Medical Academy (MMA) with serious coronavirus symptoms. The Bulgarian Air Force Commander, General Dimitar Petrov, is also being treated at the MMA.
Troud’s front page focuses on the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, 2.5 million units of which have been ordered for Bulgaria and are expected by the end of the year. It will first be available to at-risk groups, like elderly people and people with chronic illness, said to Troud Deputy Health Minister Boyko Penkov. The vaccine is still yet to be registered with the European Medicines Agency and is currently in Phase 3 of testing, which involves administering it to thousands of volunteers. Back in August, the EU signed a contract with the company producing the vaccine, AstraZeneca, for the delivery of at least 300 million doses, with the option of purchasing an additional 100 million, which would be distributed among Member States. Experts, including immunologists Bogdan Petrunov and Assoc. Prof. Andrey Chorbanov from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, are more or less sceptical of the presented timeline for the vaccine. Petrinov says that it is too early to make plans for vaccine registration before its approval from the European Medicines Agency, and Chorbanov argues that the deadlines are rushed and that longer testing is needed to determine safety. He is not against the possibility of including Bulgaria in clinical testing phases, but notes that work needs to be put into determining test subject groups.
24 Chassa writes on its frontpage that angry medics expressed their outrage on social media against the behavior of soccer fans during a UEFA Europa League match between CSKA Sofia and CFR Cluj (0:2). The game was broadcast live on tv and it was clear very few were wearing masks or keeping distance. UEFA issued a warning, but cannot conduct any type of sanctions, as this is in the scope of the countries’ respective health authorities.
Telegraf quotes Chief Health Inspector Angel Kunchev, who argued in favour of new restrictions on stadiums, gatherings, night clubs and specific companies. Businesses are proposing a mandatory mask in clubs on the way to individual tables, but not closing them fully. Association of Restaurants Chair Richard Alibegov argued that many countries in Europe have closed down night clubs and that their cases are still on the rise. He advised not doing economic damage without being certain of its effectiveness. The town of Pernik has enforced a curfew for all its entertainment and food entertainments at 10 pm, Telegraf and Monitor add.
Monitor also focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic on its front page, writing that people under quarantine have quadrupled in just a month, from 5,400 to over 22,000. Thursday marked yet another dark record when the daily infected reached over 1,500. The infection rate has also gone up – 10 carriers now infect 12 others. Those quarantined are stuck in an impossible situation because they have to break quarantine in order to go get tested. Monitor and Telegraf write that conducting PCR and quick tests at the patients’ home is being considered as a solution to this .Chief Health Inspector Angel Kunchev said that it is very possible that infection numbers reach 5,000-6,000 a day, as has happened in many European countries. He noted that it all depends on people’s behavior. Telegraf and 24 Chassa also report that 23 metro drivers have been quarantined, as three of them have COVID-19. That will not disrupt public transport as there is no shortage of drivers.
Troud writes that company deposits in banks have increased by 1 billion leva in just a month and at end-September amount to 28.5 billion leva, according to the Bulgarian National Bank. This has happened for the second month in a row. In September company loans are also increasing by close to 500 million leva (reaching 34.8 billion leva), with the most business loans this year being taken out in September. Property loans by individuals have gone up by 12.3 per cent in September (reaching 11.6 billion). Household deposits have increased by 4.25 billion in a year, reaching 58 billion leva.
Telagraf writes that the seasonal ski passes in Bulgarian winter resorts will be cheaper this season, as will hotel prices, but not by too much as resorts are already struggling. There are almost no reservations for New Year this year yet, while last year everything was booked, establishments say. All hotels in the Borovets resort have decided to open and expect last minute reservations from Bulgarians and foreigners, which have already started coming in.
24 Chassa writes that the IT sector, which for years has been the highest paid in Bulgaria, is not handling the coronacrisis as well as expected, despite predictions it will continue its upward trajectory considering the mass electronization during the pandemic. That is shown by statistics data, as well as subsidy requests from many companies. In the first quarter of 2020 revenues were up by 20 per cent, but in the second quarter the upward trend dropped to 5.7 per cent, and the third quarter will probably show similar results as well. A total of 227 IT companies have been approved for subsidies under the 60/40 government programme. The daily also notes that one of the most profitable business during the pandemic have been delivery services, which are up by 20 per cent.