Rising infections and low vaccination rates in the Balkan nation could prompt status change
Tim White, an independent data and Covid expert, believes that Bulgaria could soon be moved onto the green watchlist, which signals destinations are at risk of having their green status removed.
The move is anticipated in response to a combination of rising Covid-19 infections and a low vaccination rate in the eastern European nation, said White.
“In Bulgaria right now we are seeing dramatic increases in the infection rate with Covid-19 cases more than doubling every week right now. So although numbers seem low, things could escalate rapidly.
“Additionally, in recent weeks Sofia has reported a few instances of the Beta variant. Only three cases, but if they multiply too it will be a concern for [transport secretary] Grant Shapps.”
Bulgaria was added to the green list on 19 July. Green countries currently have the lightest restrictions for returning passengers: arrivals to the UK have no need to quarantine and must take two Covid tests, one pre-departure and one post-arrival, regardless of their vaccination status.
Britons have been unable to visit Bulgaria, however, since the Balkan state added the UK to its own “red zone” list, along with Cyprus, Spain, Fiji and Kuwait.
People from red zone countries are not allowed into Bulgaria barring a handful of exemptions, such as medical professionals and seasonal workers. Only Bulgarian citizens, long-term residents and their immediate family members are currently eligible to enter the country from the UK.
Bulgaria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the European Union, with only around 15 per cent of the population having received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Reuters Covid-19 Tracker.
Travel and tourism made up 11.6 per cent of Bulgaria’s GDP in 2019, according to data analytics firm Knoema.
Most Balkan nations are also experiencing sharp rises in infections, said White, flagging Montenegro and Kosovo as countries of particular concern. Elsewhere in the region however, it’s a different story, with cases stabilising in Greece.
The 16 countries or territories currently on the green watchlist are:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Antarctic Territory
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- Cayman Islands
- Israel and Jerusalem
- Pitcairn Islands
- Turks and Caicos Islands
“It would probably be prudent of the government to move Bulgaria to the ‘green watchlist’ category in the coming review,” White concluded. “In the past the committee has been far too slow to react, adding countries to the red list when cases have already starting decreasing.”