SOFIA -- The Bulgarian government has announced the reimposition of tougher restrictions, including the closure of restaurants and schools, in an effort to contain a surge in coronavirus cases that are straining the country's health system.
The new measures take effect on November 27 and will run until December 21 in order to “allow more people to remain healthy until the vaccines come," Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, the chief of the coronavirus task force, said on November 25.
"We are not talking about confinement at home here, the aim is to limit the rate of infections and deaths," Mutafchiyski said.
Bulgaria's health system has been overwhelmed in recent weeks by a sharp rise in the number of patients in need of hospital care amid shortages of medical staff and rising infections among doctors and nurses.
The country registered 4,382 new infections on November 25, bringing the total number of cases to 129,348.
More than 6,300 people were in hospitals and nearly 400 of them were in intensive care.
Under the new restrictive measures, all restaurants, bars, cafes, night clubs, shopping malls, and gyms will shut. Restaurants will only be able to sell takeaway.
Universities and schools will fully switch to distance learning and kindergartens will close.
Theaters will stay open but at 30 percent capacity, while private gatherings will be limited to 15 people.
Tourist trips at home and abroad will be banned.
However, places of worship will remain open, along with public parks and gardens.
Several hundred protesters gathered outside the government headquarters on the morning of November 25 to protest against the new measure and demand the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s government, accusing it of failing to reform the health system.