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Necessary information about quarantine in Bulgaria

Latest news about COVID-19 as of 29 March

The latest updates and guides to the current coronavirus situation as of 30 July 2020, 14:30.

Bookmark this article – we publish the latest updates regularly!

Written by Minka Paraskevova, Toni P. Lyubenova and Anastasiia Dehtiarova, edited by Lindsay Martin, photo by Anastasiia Dehtiarova.

 

What is the current situation?

On 28 July, the emergency epidemic situation was extended until 31 August.

From 28 July, Greece requires a mandatory negative COVID-19 test for those arriving by plane from Bulgaria. From 27 July, Austria introduces new measures for travellers from Bulgaria. From 25 July, Italy introduces a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals from Bulgaria and Romania. From 28 July, a mandatory negative PCR test for incoming tourists from Northern Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Ukraine, Moldova, Israel and Kuwait. Mandatory negative PCR test for Bulgarian citizens entering Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published the restrictions on entry into Slovakia.


From 13 July, indoor and outdoor visits to discos, piano bars, nightclubs and clubs are allowed for no more than one person per square meter and in compliance with anti-epidemic requirements.

From 22 July till 4 August, the Greek Government introduced a temporary ban on all land connections (road and rail) to and from Greece, in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the country, with the exception of (a) Greek nationals holding a residence permit in Greece, persons having their principal place of residence in Greece; (b) trucks transporting goods; c) the entry into the country of persons on urgent business trips, which is proved by the appropriate documents. However, the entry of people that don’t comply with these exceptions is allowed through the border checkpoint “Kulata – Promahon”, while maintaining the current requirements for a negative PCR test. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminds us that the entry for tourists into Greece is possible only through the border checkpoint “Kulata-Promahon”.

From 23 June, wearing a protective mask is mandatory in all indoor public places. On 30 June, the Ministry of Health communicated that up until 15 July, the face masks are mandatory in public transport vehicles, medical and health establishments, pharmacies, opticians, national centers on the problems of public health, administrative institutions and other places where citizens are served or have access, railway stations and bus stations, airports, metro stations, shops, churches, monasteries, temples and museums. Exceptions are allowed for customers in restaurants and drinking establishments, as well as for indoor athletes during physical activity. 

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.

On 20 June, the 14-day quarantine obligation was canceled for travelers arriving in Bulgaria from Belgium both from 20 June, and from 9 to 19 June 2020.

From 18 June, 14-day quarantine was canceled for travelers arriving in Bulgaria from Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Andorra, Monaco and Vatican.
All persons who have a residence permit in a Member State of the European Union, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or in a Schengen country (including San Marino, Andorra, Monaco and Vatican), as well as members of their families, can also enter Bulgaria. The quarantine obligation was also canceled for travelers who arrived in Bulgaria from Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Andorra, Monaco and Vatican in the period from 05.06.2020 to 17.06.2020. 

From 15 June, travelers arriving in Bulgaria from Sweden, the UK and Northern Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, as well as from all third countries, with the exception of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, will need to stay in a 14-day quarantine, by order of the Minister of Health. With the same order, the Minister of Health revokes the issued prescriptions for quarantine for travelers arrived in Bulgaria from Ireland, Spain, Malta and Italy in the period from 02.06.2020 to 14.06.2020. From 15 June, Greece allows Bulgarian citizens across its borders without restrictions and quarantine; similarly, from 15 June travelers arriving in Bulgaria from the Netherlands are not subject to a 14-day quarantine. 

New rules for residency permit application and renewal were introduced. Normally, foreigners residing in Bulgaria are obligated to apply for the renewal of their residence permit up to 14 days before the expiry date. According to a legal advisor Lilly Zhekova, if your residence permit expired during the emergency state or in the next three months, the application deadlines would be frozen while in the emergency state and resume with the end of it.

On top of this, in March lawmakers initially accepted a grace period of 14 days after the end of the emergency state. This 14-day period has since changed to a three-month grace period, which is the current rule (effective from 14 May).

Art. 24 para. 13  from the Foreigner’s Act now states that in the case your document is expiring three months after the end of the emergency state you can apply for renewal up to three months after the end of the emergency state. In other words, you do not need to comply with the 14-day rule and can apply until 13 August.

All foreigners can re-apply with their documents in the Migration offices in the country. In case you would apply for a long-term residency or permanent card the emergency period would not count as a break.

Any foreigner whose residence permit is expiring up to three months after the end of the emergency state can enter on the Bulgarian territory without a visa up to three months after the end of the emergency state.

 

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:

IBAN BG91BNBG96613300129302

BIC BNBGBGSD

Bulstat code of the Ministry: BG 000695317

Read about volunteering in Bulgaria in our article.

 

Bulgaria’s Ministry of Labour and Social Policy announced that the programme to provide hot lunches to the needy was being extended until June 19 2020. You can learn about the program and apply as a volunteer at the website of the Agency of Social Assistance (in Bulgarian). 

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?

On 20 June, the 14-day quarantine obligation was canceled for travelers arriving in Bulgaria from Belgium both from 20 June, and from 9 to 19 June 2020.

From 18 June, 14-day quarantine was canceled for travelers arriving in Bulgaria from Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Andorra, Monaco and Vatican.
All persons who have a residence permit in a Member State of the European Union, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or in a Schengen country (including San Marino, Andorra, Monaco and Vatican), as well as members of their families, can also enter Bulgaria. The quarantine obligation was also canceled for travelers who arrived in Bulgaria from Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Andorra, Monaco and Vatican in the period from 05.06.2020 to 17.06.2020. 

From 15 June, travelers arriving in Bulgaria from Sweden, the UK and Northern Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, as well as from all third countries, with the exception of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, will need to stay in a 14-day quarantine, by order of the Minister of Health. With the same order, the Minister of Health revokes the issued prescriptions for quarantine for travelers arrived in Bulgaria from Ireland, Spain, Malta and Italy in the period from 02.06.2020 to 14.06.2020. From 15 June, Greece allows Bulgarian citizens across its borders without restrictions and quarantine; similarly, from 15 June travelers arriving in Bulgaria from the Netherlands are not subject to a 14-day quarantine. 

For the most current Bulgaria travel news, you can visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. Call 112 (the national emergency center) to seek help or get information about the latest restrictions enforced by the Bulgarian Ministry of Health.
  3. Call the 24 hours COVID-19 hotline at +35928078757 to reach an expert epidemiologist and discuss your case, symptoms, what to do, etc.

If the medical expert decides you are a potential patient, they will arrange transport to a hospital to be tested for the virus. If your test is positive, then you will be either sent home for a home treatment (doctors visit you at home and treat you), or kept in a hospital for further treatment.

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.

You can read more in our article on this topic.

 

What about the expiring residency permits for foreigners and visiting the immigration office?

Normally, foreigners residing in Bulgaria are obligated to apply for the renewal of their residence permit up to 14 days before the expiry date. According to a legal advisor Lilly Zhekova, if your residence permit expired during the emergency state or in the next three months, the application deadlines would be frozen while in the emergency state and resume with the end of it.

On top of this, in March lawmakers initially accepted a grace period of 14 days after the end of the emergency state. This 14-day period has since changed to a three-month grace period, which is the current rule (effective from 14 May).

Art. 24 para. 13  from the Foreigner’s Act now states that in the case your document is expiring three months after the end of the emergency state you can apply for renewal up to three months after the end of the emergency state. In other words, you do not need to comply with the 14-day rule and can apply until 13 August.

All foreigners can re-apply with their documents in the Migration offices in the country.

In case you would apply for a long-term residency or permanent card the emergency period would not count as a break.

Any foreigner whose residence permit is expiring up to three months after the end of the emergency state can enter on the Bulgarian territory without a visa up to three months after the end of the emergency state.

 

Are all shops and restaurants closed? 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.

Here are some suggestions for food delivery websites:

TakeAway 

Foodpanda 

Happy

 

You can also order groceries online from:

Ebag.com

Delivme.bg

Farmhopping.com

Randi.bg 

Myfarm.bg 

 

Is there some entertainment online?

On the bright side, the National Opera and Ballet Theatre, Alma Alter Theatre and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Sofia offer free online performances, so you can enjoy a cultural treat at home and do not get too sulky.

Our team put together a guide on what to do during your quarantine at home.

 

Will the government help the businesses in trouble?

On 21 May the government presented an online platform “Rediscover Bulgaria”, where hotels and restaurants will be able to publish their offers for summer vacation or restaurant reservations. The platform launches in early June. 

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. 

On 14 May it was announced that The Development Bank will provide guarantees for companies experiencing difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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. 

 

Are businesses helping customers?

Several businesses have already decided to ease the situation for their customers.

Bulgarian mobile operators A1, Telenor, and Vivacom have opted to provide an additional 10Gb internet connection to all of their customers, as well as a full package of television and digital services for free for 30 days. 

Huawei has announced an extension of warranties for all devices with an expiration date between 15 March 2020, and 15 June 2020.   The new terms will apply automatically to all devices, including smartphones, tablets, watches, audio devices, and routers.

Facebook has launched a support program for small businesses affected by COVID-19.  100 million USD in cash grants will be distributed to over 30,000 small businesses in more than 30 countries worldwide. It is not yet known whether this applies only to places where the company has a direct contract with employees, or it includes those hired through third parties. In Bulgaria, for example, Facebook moderators are hired through TELUS.

Paid parking in Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, Varna, Bourgas, and Pleven has been temporarily suspended to provide conditions for social distance as part of the measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Travel tickets for people with disabilities with an expiration date by 29 March will be automatically extended without the need to go to a CCM point.

 

Useful resources in English:

World Health Organisation

Bulgarian Ministry of Health

National Centre for infections

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Single Information Portal


Read our other articles on COVID-19.

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