Bulgarian catering workers protest new COVID-19 success rule | Economic news


By VESELIN TOSHKOV, Associated Press

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) – Thousands of restaurateurs, chefs, waiters and bartenders took to the streets in cities across Bulgaria on Thursday to protest the government’s decision to impose a mandatory COVID-19 health pass on all people seeking to enter indoor entertainment venues.

Restaurant and hotel associations organized the demonstration, calling the health certificates “inadequate” and “discriminatory”. Restaurant associations said that in the first two days of the new requirement, restaurant attendance fell by 80% nationwide. Critics say the government introduced the requirement too quickly for people to prepare for it.

Bulgaria is facing an increase in the number of infections and deaths from COVID-19 among one of the lowest vaccination rates in the European Union at 27 countries. It has had the highest COVID-19 death rate in the block over the past two weeks and 94% of those deaths were unvaccinated people.

Still, protesters claimed that using the COVID-19 health pass will not solve the country’s epidemic but will only worsen its economic woes. They demand that antibody test results be accepted as the basis for such a certificate, that the government offer free testing, and that all state and municipal workers be included in the “green certificate” system.

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The head of the Restaurant Association, Richard Alibegov, urged the authorities to adopt measures that businesses would be able to comply with.

“I hope the government will listen to us, because if the authorities want the measures to be respected, they must be adequate,” he said. “If a company has to choose to go bankrupt or comply with the measures, most likely the measures will not be observed and there will be no health benefit.

The Balkan country of 7 million people on Thursday reported 5,643 new cases of COVID-19 and 154 more deaths, accentuating the increase in new infections since early September. Health officials blame public mistrust of vaccines and government – only 1 in 4 adults in Bulgaria is fully vaccinated – for the current spread of the infection.

In the capital of Sofia, protesters blocked a major intersection during rush hour, creating traffic chaos. They later marched to government headquarters to demand the resignation of the Minister of Health and warned that they would keep the pressure on the government until their demands were met.

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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