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LIVE: Restaurants in Bulgaria Open on 1 March, We have Strong Shield against Pandemic Now, Prime Minister
Against the backdrop of over 350,000 vaccinated and rehabilitated after Covid-19, restaurants will open on 1 March. And as of 1April, the nightlife establishments will start functioning too, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said during the regular cabinet sitting.
The Prime Minister ordered Health Minister Kostadin Angelov to discuss at the upcoming meeting with the guild‘s representatives the...
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50,000 potentially infected with COVID-19 in Bulgaria
Prof. Nikolay Vitanov: There are 50,000 potentially infected with COVID-19 in Bulgaria
There are about 50,000 people potentially infected with COVID-19 in Bulgaria. Prof. Nikolay Vitanov made this forecast on NOVA .
According to him, in order to calculate the number of potentially infected, the number of deaths should be counted at 200.
“Currently, 260 people have died at 200, which...
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Tourism Minister Angelkova: Bulgaria is a Safe Holiday Destination, Tourist Season Starts on July 1
The active summer tourist season will start on July 1, Bulgariaâ€™s Minister of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova told BNTâ€™s current affairs show â€śMore from the Dayâ€ť on May 27.
"We have an extremely clear plan and strategy in this difficult situation, which is unpredictable and unexpected both for the tourism sector, which is directly affected, and for...
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European Court of Auditors Launches Probe into Potential Violation of Air Passenger Rights
The European Court of Auditors (ECA), which monitors European Union spending and management, announced that it is launching an audit to assess whether the European Commission took sufficient steps to ensure air passenger rights were upheld during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ECA will also appraise whether emergency aid given to the transport industry by national governments appropriately considered passengers, and whether the current legal framework is fit to safeguard air passenger rights in times of crisis.
Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair estimates the total state aid to airlines approved by Brussels since the beginning of the pandemic at more than â‚¬30 billion.
â€śIn times of COVID-19, the EU and member states have had to strike a balance between preserving air passenger rights and supporting the ailing airlines,â€ť said Annemie Turtelboom, the ECA Member leading the audit.
â€śOur audit will check that the rights of millions of air travellers in the EU were not collateral damage in the fight to save struggling airlines.â€ť
The EU auditorsâ€™ report is expected to be released in summer. Part of its aim is to help â€śrestore trust in aviationâ€ť according to an ECA statement.
The ECA will specifically look into national governmentsâ€™ decision to allow airlines flexibility on whether to offer vouchers rather than refunds to passengers. Several national governments backed down from their demand for full refunds following industry complaints over the financial toll this would bring.
The European Commission issued guidelines and recommendations at the time, stating that offering vouchers does not affect the passengersâ€™ entitlement to a cash refund, but the ECA contends that passengers were often pressured by airlines to accept vouchers in lieu of cash.
â€śIn other cases, airlines did not refund passengers on time or not at all,â€ť said the ECA.
The European Commissionâ€™s Air Passenger Rights regulation, passed in 2004, gives air travellers the right to cash refunds and to re-routing if their flights are cancelled, significantly delayed or if they are denied boarding.
Passengers stranded in airports as a result of cancelled flights are entitled to compensation such as free meals and accommodation under the regulation.
Attempts to update the regulation have stalled, as the European Council has been unable to agree a common position.
Airlines were blindsided by the COVID-19 eruption across Europe in late February 2020. Around 70% of flights were cancelled due to strict government health measures that discouraged travel to contain the spread of the pandemic.
The travel chaos was compounded by frequently uncoordinated emergency measures by EU countries, such as flight bans, last-minute border closures, and quarantine requirements.
Airlines saw revenue plummet, leading many to request government aid to shore up their flagging balances sheets.
Total state aid given by European governments to airlines since the start of the pandemic is estimated at more than â‚¬30 billion, including â‚¬11 billion to Lufthansa, â‚¬10.6 billion to Air France-KLM, â‚¬3.5 billion to Alitalia, and â‚¬1.3 billion to SAS.
Irish low-cost airline Ryanair launched a legal challenge against the European Commission on anti-competition grounds, arguing that allowing member states to financially prop up ailing airlines constituted favouritism to legacy carriers.
The EUâ€™s General Court rebuked the claim, ruling that the state aid â€śdoes not constitute discriminationâ€ť.
In addition to bailing out airlines, 12 EU countries notified the EU executive of state aid measures to shore up their tour operators and travel agencies to the tune of some â‚¬2.6 billion.
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UK Ambassador to Bulgaria: British Tourists Will Enjoy Bulgarian Sunny Resorts Again
"Our joint efforts towards lifting restrictions on tourist travel between Bulgaria and the United Kingdom are very important", Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism Mariana Nikolova at a meeting with Rob Dixon, Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Sofia.Â
She said that Bulgaria authorities are doing their best to ensure conditions for safe tourism amidst the pandemic.
Mass vaccination campaign is underway in Bulgaria, as those employed in tourism are among the priority groups, Nikolova pointed out.Â
Rob Dixon commented as vaccination is scaled up at some point it would be possible to lift the restrictions.Â
"Our goals are the same as yours, namely to restore the tourist flow. We are looking forward to the moment when British tourists will enjoy the beautiful sun in Bulgaria", Dixon said during the meeting.
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Greece: Direct Ferries Again Connect Thessaloniki with Aegean Islands
Direct ferries connecting Thessaloniki Port with most Aegean islands will be launched.
The small islands run a new type of advertising campaign: all residents get vaccinated to attract tourists.
Travel agencies in Greece already sell tickets for direct ferries from Thessaloniki to the Aegean islands. After five years, the ferries from Thessaloniki to islands such as Mykonos, Chios, Lesbos, Samos and other Aegean islands were relaunched. The tourists who arrive in northern Greece via land borders and want to travel to the islands, may already use the new ferry connections from Thessaloniki.
Fares are relatively low. For example, for travelers from Thessaloniki to the island of Lymnos, for a 7-hour trip the price is EUR 23 per person EUR 62 for car transfer.
It is expected that many tourists coming by car and booking a holiday on the Aegean islands will use the ferries from Thessaloniki, tour operators say.
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Bulgariaâ€™s Tourism Sector Workers Stage Protest in Sofia
Representatives of the tourism industry will mount a protest in front of the Council of Ministers. They insist on state support for the sector suffering huge losses during the emergency situation. The key demands are a 5% reduction in VAT for tourism in the next two years, as well as an extension of the refund period for the prepaid but cancelled trips abroad, BNR reported. The organizer of the protest rally is the Future for Tourism Association.
According to the protest organizers, the measures so far taken to save the sector are insufficient and ineffective. Pavlina Ilieva, President of the organization, commented:
"Our demands are for clear and concrete deadlines within which the sums will be paid under the programs we have participated in."
BGN 69 million is necessary for subsequent financing and the establishment of a guarantee fund that will provide money to refund our customers for trips foiled due to the pandemic.
Repayment is due to begin after March 13.
"The guarantee fund will ensure the stability of our industry."
The Association of Bulgarian Tour Operators and Travel Agents (BTOTA) does not support the protest. They believe that this approach will generate inequalities in access to such state aid.
Dimitrina Goranova from the Management Board of BTOTA stated:
"Currently, the customers of certain tour operators will benefit, and then all tour operators will have to make contributions to the fund. A guarantee fund is usually set up in countries where the sector is stable.'
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Cyprus Starts Easing Lockdown Stepwise, Airports Resume Work
As of today, the third phase of coronavirus relief is underway in Cyprus and the lockdown imposed in January will be gradually lifted. As of today, the countryâ€™s airways also resume flights and ground handling services at its airports and begin to admit foreign tourists, as Bulgaria in the category of "red alert" countries.
Today, students from the lycees and vocational training schools return to classrooms.
Music schools, educational centers and other institutions for after-school activities, indoor sports facilities, gyms, swimming pools, galleries are reopened.
High school students will resume in-person learning in two weeks, from March 16.
As of the same date, restaurants, cafes and other dining establishments will resume their work.
Until then, the restrictions on leaving home (twice a day by texting) and the curfew (9 to 5 a.m.) remain in place.
All those returning to their jobs today â€“ teachers, school staff working at the other sites that are opening, must have a negative result of a rapid Covid-19 test. The tests are carried out free of charge within the framework of the national screening campaign organized by the Ministry of Health.
Easing restrictions and restarting more economic sectors will strengthen control on compliance with health requirements to prevent the spread of coronavirus. To that end, the government announced the recruitment of 260 unemployed as Covid inspectors with a salary of 1,000 euros.
Restrictive measures will be lifted stepwise, so as not to put at risk the good results achieved in the fight against the coronavirus, but also to give a breath of air to citizens and businesses, stressed Health Minister Konstantinos Ioannou.
In the last two weeks, about 30-40,000 tests per day have been made in the country, with positivity rate of only 0.5%.
As of today, according to the plan approved by the government, the gradual normalization of air transport work begins, with Cyprus opening up to foreign tourists and guests.
Nicosia began implementing the health risk assessment recommended by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, according to which countries are categorised into a "green", "yellow" and "red" groups.
Bulgaria is currently in the "red" category on the list of over 50 countries published by the Ministry of Health on Saturday. All arrivals from our country must have two negative PCR tests, made 72 hours before the flight and after landing on the island.
For the entry of our compatriots to Cyprus, two restrictions have been lifted, which were in force since August 1 last year â€“ that they have a residence permit and remain in a two-week quarantine after arrival.
Resuming work at airports is extremely important for the tourism in Cyprus, its main economic sector, which in 2020 suffered a catastrophic 84% plunge in the number of tourists.
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EU Leaders Agree on Introduction of Vaccine Passports by Summer 2021
EU leaders have agreed to introduce vaccine passports by the summer in a boost to Britons planning holidays on Europe's beaches.
Having suffered its deepest recession to date and still floundering on the rollout of its vaccination programme, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that 'everyone agreed that we need a digital vaccination certificate' programme during a virtual summit.
But Merkel admitted technical work on the vaccine 'passports' by theÂ EU Commission would take three months to complete, meaning it would not be ready when Britain could start easing international travel restrictions in May.
It comes following pressure from southern European countries to have schemes in place to help safely kickstart their tourism-dependent economies.
Greece officials plan to have the country open by May, and want a scheme that will allow entry to people who have received both doses of an approved Covid vaccine.
The country's government is reportedly considering plans to open its borders to vaccinated Brits that month, which could put it in conflict with EU plans on foreign travel.
Spain has also been pushing for an EU-wide passport policy as the country is desperate to kickstart tourism. Its foreign secretary proposed that 'vaccine certificate holders could be exempt from taking a test'.
Austria has also called for an EU-wide 'green passport' which would allow people to go on holiday and 'enjoy gastronomy, culture, events and other things again'.Â
The move has face resistance fromÂ
countries - including France and Belgium - who are concerned that easing travel for people who have been inoculated would discriminate against others.
But their claims come as the EU vaccination scheme continues to stumble with justÂ 6.2 vaccine doses per 100 people being given out versusÂ 27 doses per 100 in the UK.
French scientists also say the country faces a new wave of severe cases in April and May - at the same time the UK expects to ease its restrictions after all over-50s have been vaccinated.
Although infection rates are heading down in about 20 EU member states, there are concerns about a third wave of coronavirus because of the variant first detected in Britain spreading rapidly in some countries.Â
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned that the British variant was present in 26 of the EU's 27 countries, the South African variant in 14 and the Brazilian in seven.
'There is growing COVID fatigue among our citizens,' she said. 'But we should not let up now. Not only does the situation remain serious in many parts of Europe but we must also watch for the new variants that are spreading.'Â
One EU official gave a blunt assessment of the risks of opening up in the next few months - saying that the bloc wants to avoid 'a new death season'.
Yesterday the EU said it was on track to hit its target of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by the end of the summer although progress remains sluggish, while the global coronavirus death toll topped 2.5 million.
The milestone came as a new study showed Pfizer's Covid jab to be 94 percent effective, raising hopes for mass immunisation campaigns to help end the pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, urged governments to try to better understand the long-term consequences of coronavirus on some sufferers, calling the impact of prolonged symptoms a 'significant' burden.
After a video summit of EU leaders focused on the bloc's vaccination roll-out against Covid-19, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said fully vaccinating just under three-quarters of adults by late summer was a 'goal that we're confident with'.
But EU leaders warned that tight travel restrictions must remain as the bloc stepped up 'efforts to accelerate the provision of vaccines', although it would take months, not weeks, to build enough vaccine supplies.
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