Health News

Bulgaria makes masks obligatory in public as new COVID-19 cases surge

FILE PHOTO: A man with shopping bags walks out of a supermarket in front of a queue as shops need to observe emergency rules and make sure customers keep social distancing, due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Sofia, Bulgaria March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Dimitar Kyosemarliev

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria will make wearing protective masks obligatory in all outdoor spaces from Thursday, as coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours hit a new record, its health minister said on Tuesday.

Kostadin Angelov said wearing protective masks, along with social distancing and frequent disinfection, will slow the spread of the virus by about 30% and help prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.

“We expect the rate of infections to decrease if people observe the measures strictly. Our main aim is to decrease the number of infected Bulgarians, so that fewer people would have to go to hospital and fewer would die in hospital,” he said.

Bulgaria reported 1,024 new infections on Tuesday, the highest since the first cases were reported in March. The Balkan country of 7 million people now has 30,527 confirmed cases including 1,008 deaths.

Angelov said the new measure, also aimed at protecting medical staff, would remain in place until the end of November. Some 71 doctors, nurses and orderlies tested positive in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 1,622 people, data showed.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Mike Collett-White