1. Preventing transmission
The section on PREVENTING TRANSMISSION includes information on key public health measures that aim to prevent the further spread of the disease. It details how countries are advising the general public and people who (might) have the disease to prevent further spread, as well as measures in place to test and identify cases, trace contacts, and monitor the scale of the outbreak.
1.1 Health communication
The Ministry of Health (MoH) published first COVID-19 related announcements in January 2020: on January 27, recommendations for passengers to and from China, including hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, physical distancing, etc. were released. In February, the MoH continued to update information about prevention activities, mainly targeting passengers abroad. On February 11, a national phone line for questions and consultations was launched, and on February 14, official advice on hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and physical distancing was issued. A special section about COVID-19 was created on the MoH website, regularly updated with information for citizens (available at: https://www.mh.government.bg/bg/informaciya-za-grazhdani/informaciya-otnosno-noviya-koronavirus-2019-ncov/), medical specialists, employers (including shops, pharmacies and service providers) and orders of the Minister of Health regarding anti-epidemic measures. All relevant institutions (such as Regional Health Inspectorates, National Centre of Public Health and Analysis, National Centre of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, National Health Insurance Fund) disseminate information and advice about preventive measures on how to reduce the risk of disease transmission. Press conferences are delivered by the Prime Minister, Minister of Health and other ministries and responsible authorities several times a week, organised in case of emergency updates, the introduction of new measures or dissemination of information on labour market trends, social policy responses, education, etc. The MoH delivers information via its website in a daily manner.
Information on outbreak trends, responses and prevention of COVID-19 is available at a new web portal that serves as an entry to all relevant public authorities. The portal has been launched as a part of the national informational COVID system (see section 1.4) and includes data and map dashboard, showing confirmed cases, number of quarantined persons by districts and municipalities and other relevant data.
In addition to daily briefings held by the National Operational Headquarters (see section 5.1 Governance; published on the national COVID-19 web portal), the National Statistical Institute created a section on COVID-19 on its website with regularly updated information on confirmed cases by sex, age groups and regions, as well as statistics addressing the economic and social consequences of the epidemic. The MoH has started to publish weekly epidemiological bulletins, prepared by the National Centre of Public Health and Analysis (see section 1.4).
On April 22, the National Patient Organisation announced the launch of a national call centre for patients with chronic diseases, which will provide teleconsultations with different medical specialists, including psychotherapist.
At the beginning of May, a chatbot channel as part of the official COVID-19 web portal was launched on Viber. The channel will be used by the national authorities for dissemination of up-to-date information about the spread of the disease and its symptoms. The channel also enables the download of the ViruSafe mobile application (see Section 1.4), which allows users to report symptoms and automatically informs their GPs if potential risk is detected.
According to a survey conducted by Gallup International in November 2020, only 43% of the respondents stated willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Although the willingness to get vaccinated might not be a good predictor of acceptance, these results are in line with the increasing vaccine hesitancy among Bulgarians, which has been reported in the last years.
Ministry of Health; https://www.mh.government.bg/bg/novini/aktualno/
COVID-19 Web portal – Bulgaria; https://coronavirus.bg/bg/
National Statistical Institute. COVID-19 Section; https://www.nsi.bg/bg/node/18120/
Ministry of Health. Epidemiological information; https://www.mh.government.bg/bg/novini/epidemichna-obstanovka/