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Introduction of green certificate requirements in Bulgaria sparks protests and calls for higher salaries

Photo: BGNES

Today Bulgaria joined the European countries, where the green certificate unlocks the doors to cultural institutions, large retail stores, gyms, restaurants. While Bulgaria continues to hold one of the top positions in the world’s Covid-19 mortality chart and more and more Bulgarians now breathe with the help of a device in overcrowded hospital wards, citizens dissatisfied with the measures that do not leave them much choice started protests.

“Discrimination”, “genocide”, calls for rebellion – that is how half of the surveyed citizens in Burgas responded to the news about the green certificate.

"Those of us who are not vaccinated are like black sheep. I cannot do anything, I can just sit and wait for it to go away, like everything else in Bulgaria," one of the respondents says.

There are different opinions, too:

"I got vaccinated when I thought it was the right time for me. I think everyone should take their responsibility. That's the right way to deal with a pandemic."

One of the hot questions during the first day of the new restrictions is whether there would be enough doctors in hospitals as the green certificate becomes mandatory for them.

"Before announcing the measures, we made an analysis about the effects," Deputy Health Minister Alexander Zlatanov says.

Most of the medics (60-70%) are already immunized and the rest will be initially tested. We would not make compromises in social care institution because the elderly are vulnerable and the only way they can become infected is by bringing the coronavirus in. Less than 50% of staff working there have been vaccinated, so they will be tested twice a week. We postponed the green certificate for the teachers because the Minister of Education asked for a two-week delay. During this time, they will be able to get vaccinated and it is expected that children will switch to online training. Currently, about 50% of teachers are vaccinated.”

The introduction of the green certificate took less than 48 hours and literally stunned many people and institutions. In several municipalities where the number of patients exceeds 750 per 100,000 on a 14-day basis, including the capital city of Sofia, students have switched to distance learning.

Medics started protests calling for a 40% salary hike; universities faced the fact that they need to train the few vaccinated students in half-empty halls and cultural institutions learned they need to have rooms for rapid testing of spectators.

"The new measures and restrictions are great, but they come too late," Prof. Radka Argirova, chair of the Bulgarian Association for Medical Virology, says. “All this had to happen in the summer in order not to let the situation out of control. And if it was done back then, we would have been much freer. Now it is expected that the number of newly infected people will drop."

The owners of restaurants and nightclubs are highly dissatisfied. The Association of Bulgarian Establishments and the Bulgarian Association of Restaurants have been preparing for a mass protest today.

"The order is unacceptable because we agreed to work in the conditions of a green certificate only if the state as an employer is the first to vaccinate its employees,” Krastina Mitkova from the Association of Establishments says. “We are now working with just 20% of the population, which means that 80% of our capacity is limited. In this way it is absolutely impossible to pay rents and insurances. The rising price of electricity complicates matters even further, as all products and raw materials are becoming more expensive."

In the current expected chaos, political forces have been calling for the resignation of the minister of health, while others are relying on rebellious rhetoric with the intention of gaining more votes at the upcoming elections, and in front of vaccine laboratories more and more people are quietly queuing for the key that opens doors.

Compiled by: Diana Tsankova /based on materials from the Bulgarian National Radio - Horizont, Burgas, Plovdiv and Vidin/

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: BGNES
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