Bulgaria, EU’s least vaccinated nation, faces deadly surge

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Bulgaria has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the 27-nation European Union and is facing a new, rapid surge of infections due to the more infectious delta variant. Despite that, people in this Balkan nation are the most hesitant in the bloc to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Only 20% of adults in Bulgaria, which has a population of 7 million, have so far been fully vaccinated. That puts it last in the EU, which has an average of 69 % fully vaccinated.

Bulgaria has access to all four of the vaccines approved by the EU — Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson&Johnson. But since the start of the pandemic, more than 19,000 people in Bulgaria have died of COVID-19, the EU’s third-highest death rate, behind only the Czech Republic and Hungary. In the last week, an average of 41 people have died each day.

Bulgaria’s largely failed inoculation campaign now risks putting the country’s ailing health care system under serious strain.

In response, the government imposed tighter restrictions Tuesday. Restaurants and cafes must close at 11 p.m. and their tables are limited to six people. Nightclubs have been shuttered and cinemas and theaters are limited to half capacity. Outdoors sports arenas are limited to 30% capacity.

“The low vaccination rate forces us to impose these measures,” Health Minister Stoycho Katsarov said.

Photo: A woman wearing a face mask walks in Sofia, Bulgaria. EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV

Read more via AP