SOFIA (Reuters) – Restaurants and bars in Bulgaria will have to close at 10 p.m. from Sept. 7, while indoor sports competitions will be held without spectators, the health minister said on Thursday, as the Balkan country braces for a surge of new coronavirus infections.
Bulgaria, the least vaccinated country against the coronavirus in the European Union, has seen a spike in infections in recent weeks, mostly of the highly infectious Delta variant.
On Thursday alone the country of 7 million people registered some 1,745 new cases, bringing its tally of active infections to some 32,192.
Some 18,950 people have died since the beginning of the pandemic, with 54 more deaths reported on Thursday in the country with the highest mortality rate in the European Union, figures from Our World in Data showed.
“There is no place for panic. The situation is serious, but not out of control. The low percentage of vaccinations forces us to impose these measures,” interim Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov told reporters.
He appealed again for Bulgarians to get vaccinated.
Under the new restrictions, which will be in force until the end of October, music festivals will be banned, while cinemas and theatres will have to operate at 50% capacity.
Students will be allowed to attend classes when the school year begins on Sept. 15, Katsarov said, but he warned that if the infections continue to rise, they may have to switch to online studies.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Robert Birsel)