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Bulgaria launches COVID-19 pass amid rising infections and low vaccine uptake

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By AP
A man wears a mask in the colours of the Bulgarian flag while attending a protest by restaurant workers in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.
A man wears a mask in the colours of the Bulgarian flag while attending a protest by restaurant workers in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP

Bulgaria launched on Tuesday its COVID-19 “Green Certificate” as a mandatory requirement for access to restaurants, theatres, cinemas, concert halls, gyms, clubs and shopping malls as the country faces a surge in coronavirus infections.

Health Minister Stoycho Katsarov explained on Tuesday that the new digital or paper health pass certifies that its holder has been vaccinated, has recently recovered from COVID-19 or has tested negative.

“The number of infected is growing, the number of deaths is also increasing, which forces us to take additional measures,” he said, warning that venues that do not follow the rules will be closed.

The Balkan country of 7 million reported 4,979 new COVID-19 cases and 214 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, furthering the rise in new infections since the start of September.

According to official data, Bulgaria has had the highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the 27-nation European Union in the past two weeks and 94% of those deaths were unvaccinated people.

Health officials blame public mistrust in vaccines and the government — just one in four adults is fully vaccinated — for the current infection spread.

The government is also making the green certificate mandatory for staff at hospitals and nursing homes and university students will need it to be allowed into in-person classes.