SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria will ease some coronavirus restrictions from February 4 though restaurants will remain closed for now due to concerns about the new coronavirus variant, officials said on Saturday.
The move as follows measures in place since late November which have tamed a surge in new infections.
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said secondary school students will be allowed to attend classes under a special regime as of next month and will also be able to attend extracurricular sport and dance activities.
“If there are some things you can put on a balance with health, they are education, culture and training. Only they are worth the risk,” Borissov said during a trip to the western town of Slivnitsa.
Bulgaria reopened primary schools and kindergartens in early January – a move that has not led to a spike in infections.
The centre-right government decided against plans to allow restaurants, cafes and bars to reopen for now on concerns about the new, more contagious variant of coronavirus.
Bulgaria has detected the new variant, first identified in Britain, in eight samples from coronavirus tests, Health Minister Kostadin Angelov told reporters.
“The only good thing regarding this variant is that anti-COVID 19 vaccines also work against it,” Angelov said.
Angelov said health authorities will carefully monitor the situation in the next two weeks before deciding whether or not to ease other restrictive measures.
Restaurant and bar owners, whose businesses have been put on hold since late November, are planning massive protests against the ban next week and have threatened to open in February despite the ban.
On Saturday, Bulgaria reported 566 new daily coronavirus infections, significantly less than the approximately 4,000 cases per day seen in November.
The country of 7 million people has registered 214,430 cases including 8,799 deaths.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova)