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UPEE opinion on the new restrictive measures proposed by the Chief State Health Inspector

In connection with the proposed by the Chief State Health Inspector of the Minister of Health new restrictive measures on the territory of the country to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Union for Private Economic Enterprise as a nationally representative employer organization expresses the following:

I. With regard to the new restrictive measures proposed by the Chief State Health Inspector of the Minister of Health on the territory of the country in connection with the spread of COVID-19.

The proposals made are based on the model of suspension of work in all public places applied at the beginning of the pandemic and during the next two waves. Indeed, this is the easiest and fastest way to limit the spread, but the most negative for the development of the economy. We believe that this model needs to be revised by considering and implementing more alternative ways to influence the spread of the infection without ceasing business.

1. In connection with our position, we do not support the proposals made for the complete cessation of all mass initiatives with a high concentration of people, as we believe that a norm of concentration of a certain area should be introduced, to an obligation has been established to disinfect the entrances / approaches to the event, to order the wearing of a mask during the outdoor mass event.

2. We also do not support the proposal to suspend the holding of congress-conference events, seminars, competitions, trainings, team building, exhibitions and other public events indoors. Congress and conference events and similar indoor events do not contain a high degree of risk. These are events that allow for a high degree of control and can in no way be equated with a mass initiative with a high concentration of people.

The permission made (exception) for their implementation in the presence of 100% vaccinated staff and attendees is not relevant. This exception is practically not applicable as far as Bulgaria has less than 20% vaccinated population (most of whom are people over 60 years). Moreover, a person who has received a second dose of vaccine and, in addition, 14 days have passed since it was given, is considered to have completed a vaccination course.

This only ostensibly allows for these events, but it is not applicable and will only cause additional negative effects. Moreover, employers do not have the opportunity to influence their staff and force them to be vaccinated. We strongly oppose employers being entrusted with this uncharacteristic function of motivating their staff to be vaccinated and making choices under pressure in connection with the exercise of their health rights. This is a function of the state and only it can influence the population to make informed choices and get vaccinated. That is why the measures and actions of the institutions for the vaccination campaign should be strengthened, and not in a way “delegated” to the employers.

We should not exclude the hypotheses in which only one person has certain medical contraindications for vaccination, but in the proposed option this will make the event inadmissible.

It should be noted that such a ban will put all city hotels on the verge of bankruptcy, as most of their activities are related to the implementation of such events and business trips, which are very limited at the moment due to the current restrictions. for entry of foreigners on the territory of the country.

3. The arguments set out above lead us to disagree with the proposals made to suspend indoor matches and other sporting events.

4. Regarding the cessation of group visits to gyms, gyms, clubs, swimming pools and complexes, spa (medical SPA) centers, spas, wellness centers and thalassotherapy centers, we consider that group visits are not of a higher degree of danger than individual ones. On the contrary, they allow for another line of control – not only by the managers of the facility, but also by the organizers of the group practice. As for the admission for their implementation in the presence of 100% vaccinated staff, we have already expressed our position on it.

5. Based on the above arguments, we cannot accept the suspension of museums, galleries and other cultural events, nightclubs, gambling halls and casinos, as well as work as the most necessary option. indoors at restaurants.

6. In all the above cases, the approach should be similar to that contained in item 3.9. from the proposals of the Chief State Health Inspector, namely introduction and / or strengthening of the control for access and restriction of the flow of persons according to set norms.

ІІ. We propose that the following measures be introduced to limit the spread of COVID-19 infection.

1. Remain the current restrictions on capacity up to 50%.

2. Strengthen compliance with all restrictions and measures.

3. Wearing masks indoors and outdoors when visiting the places and events specified in the proposal of the Chief State Health Inspector, in case it is not possible to maintain a distance of at least 1.5 meters between visitors, who are not members of the same family.

4. Mandatory disinfection (through dispensers, etc.) when entering and leaving all public places.

5. Mandatory temperature measurement when entering all indoor public spaces.

7. All public facilities (including hotel complexes, shopping malls, gyms, etc.) should receive free tests and surveys of staff and visitors on a selective basis.

8. Business representatives should be responsible for monitoring the implementation of measures. Violators should be deprived of subsidies.

9. Concluding reciprocal agreements with neighboring countries to drop the PCR tests for the next tourist season. It is currently being negotiated and this is extremely necessary (following the example of Romania and the Czech Republic this year).

10. Raising the thresholds for entry into the orange and red zone of the EU countries, given that the percentage of vaccinated in these countries is increasing every day.

11. Permanent entry into the green zone of all countries with over 70% vaccinated.

III. Regarding the necessary economic measures to support business.

In our opinion, traffic lights should also be developed for economic measures. Business predictability is needed, and there must be clearly defined rules under which restrictions on the operation of the business, what support measures are activated and applied. We believe that in the current situation it is imperative to do the following:

1. Active campaign for voluntary vaccination.

2. Free access to antigen tests for the staff of the public facilities and for the visitors.

3. Extension of the duration of the measure “60/40” (CMD 151/2020) until the end of the year with the possibility to update its design in accordance with the current state of impact of limited businesses and opportunities, provided by the Temporary Framework.

4. Restoration of the “80/20” brand (RMS 429/2020) to support up to 80 percent of the costs of remuneration and insurance of staff in the most affected sectors – transport, hotels and restaurants.

5. Extension of the NRA Program for support for working capital for businesses whose activities are limited by order of the health authorities – at central and regional level.

6. Opening of a new scheme for direct provision to the Ministry of Transport, Information Technologies and Communications for support of road carriers by redirection of unspent funds from OP “Transport”.

7. Inclusion of self-insured persons in the scope of the applied measures.