The latest updates and guides to the current coronavirus situation as of 19 January 2021, 12:00.
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Written by Anastasiia Dehtiarova, Minka Paraskevova and Toni P. Lyubenova, edited by Lindsay Martin, photo by Anastasiia Dehtiarova.
What is the current situation?
On 27 November, the emergency epidemic situation in Bulgaria was extended until 31 January.
Do you need a PCR test for a health checkup or traveling? Our community on Facebook Foreigners in Sofia & Friends has some suggestions for clinics and waiting times. Are you traveling to or within Europe? Check Re-open Europe for the latest updates about the regulations.
– Nightclubs, restaurants, malls, gyms and casinos remain closed. No conferences and congresses can be held until 31 January.
– Kindergartens and nurseries can open, children from 1st to 4th grade will return to school on 4 January.
– Dining places in the hotels can operate only for guests and until 22:00.
From 18 January, Norway introduces a mandatory PCR or antibody test for passengers arriving in the country, which have been in a high risk area within the past 14 days. Passengers still need to register online before arriving in the country.
Austria has extended its lockdown until 7 February.
From 18 January, arrivals to England and Scotland will be required to present a negative PCR, LAMP or antibody test when entering the country.
From 14th January, Serbia no longer requires a negative PCR test for Bulgarians entering the country.
France introduces a night curfew between 18:00 and 6:00 from 16 January.
From 26 January, the USA will require a negative Covid-19 test for all arrivals by air, or a document confirming they have already recovered from the virus. From 16 January, Ireland will require a negative PCR test for all arrivals to the country. The mandatory 14-day quarantine remains for all arrivals from high risk areas, including Bulgaria. The Netherlands extends its lockdown until at least 9 February, while requiring a negative PCR test for all arrivals.
On 11 January, Germany introduced a mandatory PCR test for arrivals from risk areas, including Bulgaria. The requirement for a 10-day quarantine remains in place.
From 9 January, Denmark bans arriving flights, except those in which all passengers have presented a negative PCR test, taken 24 hours before boarding. The measure will be in place until 17 January.
Belgium extends its requirements for a mandatory 7-day quarantine and test for all red zone arrivals in the country until 19 February.
From 8 January, Greece introduces a 7-day quarantine for arrivals in the country, which will be in place until 21 January.
From 11 January, all international arrivals to England and Scotland are required to present a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours prior to departure.
On 17 December, Spain extends the period for recognition of expired Bulgarian personal documents. The Bulgarian government agreed to add 360 BGN to the monthly salaries of the first-line general practitioners; provide 156 mln BGN to small, medium and micro enterprises that have suspended or limited their activities as a result of the orders of the Minister of Health in connection with the anti-epidemic measures; allocate 56 mln BGN to support the tourism industry affected by the pandemic.
From 15 December to 19 January, The Netherlands is introducing stricter measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. In Turkey, the complete ban on going out on homes on Saturdays and Sundays does not apply to foreign citizens who are part of the provided tourist services such as package tourist trips, tourist excursions, vacations and transfers. The curfew requirement on weekdays between 21:00 and 05.00 is still in place.
From 4 December, Sweden recognizes expired Bulgarian ID cards. From 3 December, Czech Republic updates the requirements to enter the country, including for tourism or family visits for the Christmas holidays. From 3 December, a referral for a PCR test is issued after a positive result of a rapid antigen test.
Are you traveling to or within Europe? Check Re-open Europe for the latest updates about the regulations.
Temporarily, tickets will be again sold by the controllers on the public transport vehicles, until more ticket selling points will be added across the city. Follow Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova’s Facebook page for more news.
More information can be found on coronavirus.bg.
You can consult all orders of the Minister of Health on their website (in Bulgarian).
Can I donate or volunteer?
The Ministry of Health has opened a donation account to raise funds to support the operation of hospitals during the emergency. The donation will provide safety kits for working medical staff, supplies, and equipment, including respirators. You can donate here:
Bulstat code of the Ministry: BG 000695317
The Bulgarian Red Cross is also providing packages of food for low-income families and collects donations.
Another new platform from the National Crisis Headquarters Dobrovolets.BG collects donations and recruits volunteers.
What’s the traveling situation?
What are the quarantine conditions? What are the legal arrangements if we work from home?
Most businesses are advised to work from home. Especially the ones who deal with a high number of people, such as educational institutions and centers, banks, culture, and entertainment places. If your employer cannot offer distance working options you may be entitled to annual paid or unpaid leave. Unfortunately, the decision is solely in the hands of your employer. Statistics show that the number of layoffs and reduced working places has increased for the past couple of weeks.
What to do if you suspect you have coronavirus?
It’s a good idea to talk to a specialist if you have symptoms such as high fever, cough, joint or muscle pain, sore throat, or difficulty breathing.
The first thing to do is to contact your GP via the phone. Stay at home and do not visit any hospitals or medical clinics. This is very important to prevent other people from possible infection.
If you do not have a GP, then you can proceed in the following ways:
- First, find out your regional health inspectorate and call them. If you cannot find it online (search ‘RZI Sofia’ in Google), take step 2 and call the Ministry of Health to inquire.
- Call 112 (the national emergency center) to seek help or get information about the latest restrictions enforced by the Bulgarian Ministry of Health.
- Call the 24 hours COVID-19 hotline at +35928078757 to reach an expert epidemiologist and discuss your case, symptoms, what to do, etc.
Your GP or doctor in charge may issue you a sick leave for the period of your treatment according to the specific circumstances. If you put yourself in voluntary quarantine due to a visit to a risky destination, such as Italy or China, your GP or Regional Health Inspection Office is entitled to issue your sick leave.
Where can I order food?
From 6 May, several state-of-emergency restrictions will be removed. In particular, from 6 May, visits to outdoor areas (gardens, terraces, etc.) of restaurants, fast food venues, drinking establishments, and coffee shops are allowed, subject to the established anti-epidemic measures. The shops are mainly operating as usual (face masks are obligatory).
Here are some suggestions for food delivery websites:
Is there some entertainment online?
Our team put together a guide on what to do during your quarantine at home.
Will the government help the businesses in trouble?
The Bulgarian Finance Minister has announced the government is working on taking measures to alleviate pressure on affected businesses during the COVID-19 emergency. Some of the early measures include an extension of the deadlines for the annual accounting balance and local tax rebates until mid-year. He suggested that businesses affected by limited consumption and supply chain disruptions do not cut on staff. The government can support small and medium-sized enterprises with a budget of about 10 bln BGN.
To avoid large groups of people and also support small and medium-sized businesses, people are advised to shop for food and necessities from neighborhood stores.
The Bulgarian law has adopted measures to compensate for the businesses affected by the epidemic. Businesses that do not have a direct ban on activity (the ban is imposed on businesses in the agricultural sector, financial and insurance activities, government, education, and social work) can apply if their income in the month preceding the application has decreased by 20 % compared to the same month in 2019. If the employer wishes to benefit from the compensation, he cannot dismiss any of his employees for the period during which the company receives compensation. This prohibition of redundancies applies to both compensated employees and non-compensated employees.
What about sick leave?
The Health Minister explained that people returning from infected areas must call their employers and request leave. Only people who show symptoms and need to be hospitalized will receive compulsory sick leaves. The ministry is currently working on the current regulation of leave and working hours so that the situation does not severely impact workers.