On Wednesday, April 1, Bulgaria's government announced that it would be asking parliament to extend its current state of emergency through Wednesday, May 13, to prevent further spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The state of emergency was originally enacted on Friday, March 13, and is currently set to end on Monday, April 13. Lawmakers reportedly hope to hold a vote on the extension in the coming week.
On Friday, March 20, Bulgaria closed its borders to all non-EU citizens, as well as individuals from Italy, Spain, France, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Citizens of the abovementioned countries will be allowed to transit through Bulgaria in order to return to their country of residence. Bulgarian nationals, family members of Bulgarian citizens, and individuals with permanent and long term residence status in Bulgaria are exempt from the restrictions. The travel ban does not apply to nationals of EU Member States and Schengen countries not mentioned above. These travel restrictions will remain in place through Friday, April 17.
As of April 1, schools and universities nationwide remain closed and visits to nonessential businesses such as gyms, cinemas, bars, restaurants, and shops are prohibited.
To date, there have been more than 420 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bulgaria, including nine associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.