COVID-19: Public gatherings for non-vaccinated restricted in Bulgaria as of 21 October 2021

New restrictions on public gathering in Bulgaria are in force as of 21 October 2021 as the 4th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic expands to the levels of the spring of 2020. They are imposed by an order of the Minister of Health within the frame of the state of epidemic emergency declared earlier in the fall and in force until the end of November 2021.

Along with the already known measures to limit the epidemic, the authorities expand the requirement to present a green certificate for participation in activities related to gathering of many people indoors – e.g., visits to shopping centers and restaurants, sports events, seminars, conferences, performances, etc. The document certifies the completion of a vaccination cycle or PCR test). The certificate is mandatory in hospitals and nursing homes whereby the employees and visitors are required to present it to be admitted to the premises. However, there is a notable exception of the requirement – it does not apply to grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, and other facilities for essential goods or services, nor to access to public transport.

Regardless of the presence of a certificate, the private gatherings (such as baptisms, weddings, etc.) are restricted to 15 people for indoor events and up to 30 people for outdoors as it is arguably nearly impossible to impose and supervise effectively the certificate requirement with respect to family and relatives given that the majority of the population is rather reluctant to be vaccinated. Further, attendance in primary and secondary schools will be suspended and students will switch to electronic form of education when reaching a high level of morbidity in the municipality.

The restrictions are a albeit belated response to the increasingly serious level of the spread of the pandemic and aim is to encourage the population to get vaccinated, as currently Bulgaria has the lowest rate of in terms of the number of vaccinated in the European Union with less than 25% vaccinated by the population.