The upward trend in new coronavirus infections in Bulgaria appeared to indicate that the country was entering the third wave of Covid-19, Bulgaria’s Health Minister Kostadin Angelov said at the weekly national response staff briefing on February 11.
“It is likely that what is happening in Bulgaria is the start of the third wave. I am always wary of categorical answers because since the beginning of the disease and until now, Covid-19 has contradicted a large part of our answers and many declarations by scientists in Bulgaria, Europe and the world,” Angelov said.
The daily rate of morbidity in Bulgaria was 143 per 100 000 population. “Over the past week, the trend has reversed, with 5708 new confirmed cases and 3659 people recovering,” he said.
Morbidity was highest in the district of Kyustendil, at 330 per 100 000 population, and lowest in the Turgovishte district, at 30 per 100 000 population, Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev said.
Kunchev said that in terms of morbidity, Bulgaria ranked 26th in the European Union, and in 15th place in mortality, largely unchanged from last week. That lack of change was not because infections plateaued in Bulgaria, but rather due to rising numbers across the continent, he said.
Twelve districts in Bulgaria, including Sofia, were currently “red zones”, meaning that the rate of morbidity was higher than 120 per 100 000 population. Another 12 were “orange zones” with morbidity between 60 and 120 per 100 000 population.
Major-General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, head of the national operational headquarters against Covid-19, said that the morbidity rate figures were up 32 per cent on a weekly basis and 54 per cent compared to two weeks ago.
The number of people requiring hospitalisation was up, but not to a degree where it would put a strain on the country’s healthcare system, he said.
At national level, bed occupancy in wards for intensive care of Covid-19 patients is 38 per cent, while the figure for beds for patients not requiring emergency treatment is 35 per cent, Angelov said.
Asked about progress on the vaccination drive, Angelov said that the fourth phase of the national vaccination plan could begin as early as the beginning of March, provided there was sufficient stock of jabs available.
Under Bulgaria’s national plan, approved by the government in December, the fourth phase includes people over the age of 65 and people with concomitant diseases.
As regards the vaccination of election officials ahead of the April 4 parliamentary polls, Angelov said that the ministry asked the Central Election Commission to intervene with political parties to designate their election representatives at local and regional level as early as possible.
Elections officials are part of the third phase of the vaccination plan and the target date to administer the first jab to them was March 5, allowing enough time for the second dose and the 10 days necessary to develop advanced immunity by election day, Angelov said.
Vaccines would be also administered to municipal employees involved in the election process, but no jabs would be done on election day because one of the possible adverse reactions was flu-like symptoms, which could interfere with an election official’s duties on that day, he said.
Bulgaria’s medicines agency Bogdan Kirilov said that the country was expecting to receive 260 000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and 100 000 total of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in February.
The next scheduled deliveries were 6000 Moderna jabs by the end of the day and 31 200 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines on February 12, he said.
For March, the exact delivery amounts and dates were still subject to final confirmation by the European Commission and pharmaceutical companies, but current expectations were for more than 400 000 doses, Kirilov said.
As regards Angelov’s announcement on February 10 that Bulgaria would seek additional vaccine amounts, Kirilov said that the country has already secured more Moderna jabs, an increase of 460 000 to a total of 960 000 doses, to be delivered by July, but gave no update on additional Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.