SOFIA -- Nikola Minchev, the speaker of Bulgaria's parliament, has tested positive for COVID-19 after he attended a meeting with the country's top politicians and officials.
In response to the development, Bulgaria's entire state leadership has gone into quarantine as a precautionary measure -- including President Rumen Radev, as well as Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, the economy minister, the minister of the interior, and all other party and parliamentary group leaders.
Bulgaria's chief health inspector said on January 11 that the length of time each person must remain isolated will be determined by the health department after their vaccination status is checked. Quarantine could last as long as 10 days.
Minchev felt unwell right after a National Security Advisory Council meeting on January 10 that was discussing Sofia's relations with neighboring North Macedonia. Minchev's positive COVID-19 test was announced by a spokeswoman for parliament.
Minchev attended the seven-hour meeting alongside the president and prime minister as well as the ministers of defense, interior, and finance, and the army chief of staff. The heads of the security and intelligence services also attended the meeting along with a deputy foreign minister and top representatives of the seven parties with seats in parliament.
A 10-day quarantine for Bulgaria's political leadership could set back attempts to normalize relations with North Macedonia -- a development that the meeting had concluded was necessary before Sofia drops its veto on the start of European Union membership talks with North Macedonia.
Petkov is due on January 18 to make his first official visit to North Macedonia since taking office in December as prime minister.
He has promised to work on resolving remaining disputes between the two Balkan countries, indicating that a six-month deadline for normalizing relations was realistic.