Bulgaria closes restaurants, schools to fight virus
- Theatres will be allowed to operate at 30% capacity
- Universities and schools will fully switch to distance learning and kindergartens will close
- Churches and other places of worship will however stay open
Bulgaria's government announced Wednesday a return to tougher restrictions, including the closure of restaurants and schools, in a bid to contain a surge in infections and deaths amid a second wave of coronavirus.
"New anti-epidemic measures are coming into force from November 27 until December 21," Health Minister Kostadin Angelov told a news conference after a government meeting early Wednesday.
Cafes and restaurants had remained open even as infection and death rates peaked over the past two weeks, but they will now close along with casinos, fitness studios and shopping centres.
Universities and schools will fully switch to distance learning and kindergartens will close.
Theatres will be allowed to operate at 30 percent capacity, while restaurants will only be able to sell takeaways.
Churches and other places of worship will however stay open.
Unlike during Bulgaria's tough spring lockdown, the government will not shut public parks and gardens or limit travel.
"We are not talking about confinement at home here, the aim is to limit the rate of infections and deaths," coronavirus taskforce chief Ventsislav Mutafchiyski said, adding that the new measures will hopefully show results after two to three weeks.
"This will allow more people to remain healthy until the vaccines come," he added.
Bulgaria's health system has been overwhelmed in recent weeks by a spiralling rise in the number of patients in need of hospital care amid severe shortages of medical staff and over 2,000 sick doctors and nurses.
Several cases of patients dying after having to wait for hours outside hospitals for admission have sparked renewed anger against the conservative cabinet of embattled Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Earlier this year he faced months of street protests where thousands pressed for his resignation.
Some 300 protesters gathered outside the government headquarters on Wednesday morning to protest against the restrictions and briefly clashed with police.
Business groups meanwhile have demanded financial aid for companies, warning that new closures would lead to bankruptcies.