Bulgaria plans a lockdown to curb the rise in coronavirus infections

© Reuters. Man wearing protective face mask rides a train in Sofia

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria plans to close schools, restaurants and shops and ban all sporting events, private parties and outings as it struggles to contain a surge in coronavirus cases.

Balkan health minister Kostadin Angelov said Monday that the measures to be discussed by the center-right government on Wednesday are aimed at preventing a struggling health system from becoming overwhelmed.

New coronavirus cases have doubled to 23,569 in the past week, data from the Bulgarian Ministry of Health showed, bringing the total to 121,820 in the country of 7 million.

Around 6,350 people are in hospitals, 1,000 more than a week ago, and more than 400 are in intensive care.

Hospitals are tense, many have few staff due to increasing infections among medical professionals, while ambulances are looking for coronavirus beds in large cities.

Bulgaria’s COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people are the third highest in the European Union in the past 14 days. A total of 2,880 people have died of COVID-19.

“No matter how prepared, no (health) system can withstand such pressure,” Angelov told reporters.

“We cannot afford to lose the lives of young people, old people, doctors and teachers,” he added.

Under the plan, which, if approved, goes through November 27, schools and universities will switch to online study while kindergartens and kindergartens will be closed.

Sports and cultural events such as seminars, conferences and private parties are prohibited. All restaurants, bars and cafes as well as all shops except pharmacies, grocery stores and banks are closed.

Tourist trips at home and abroad are also prohibited.

Earlier, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said measures should be balanced to keep the small and open economy going, and Angelov said he hoped the measures could allow some easing for the Christmas break.

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