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 Sofia News Agency 
Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency)
Real time news provider in English that informs its readers about the latest Bulgarian news - economic, political and cultural, foreign media analysis on Bulgaria and world news.

Kozloduy NPP Unit 5 Works Again, No Risk of Radioactive Contamination

In the early hours on January 22, Kozloduy nuclear power plant (situated on the Danube River in northwestern Bulgaria) shut down Unit 5 after a protection system was activated following a routine technical operation.

Power plant representatives are firm there is no accident. The protection system was activated during a routine operation.

The Eco-Inspection carries out continuous measurements on site, and no increased radiation has been detected.

All necessary actions are currently being taken to restore the work of the 5th Unit, which is expected to take place by the end of the day.

The Ministry of Energy assured BNT that there is no danger for the population from radiation. The gamma indicators are within the normal range between 0.11 and 0.16 microsieverts.

"This morning, January 22, at 1:16 am, Unit 5 of Kozloduy NPP was disconnected from the energy system. The reason is protection during routine actions. What does routine actions mean? During the daily work of the NPP colleagues, they work according to a protocol. I want to assure you there is absolutely no risk for the members of the public and the energy system, and the radiation and the balance in the system are within the necessary limits," Deputy Minister of Energy Zhecho Stankov said.

MRF MP Ramadan Atalai, who is a member of the energy committee in Parliament told BNT breakfast programme that at 1.17 am, during a technical operation the automatic defences activated. The necessary actions have been taken and its work will be restored. All systems have been checked. There is no reason for concern in the public, he said.

The Executive Director of Kozloduy NPP, Nasko Mihov, explained for BNT that it was a routine procedure and there was nothing unusual happening in the plant. He also assured that there is no risk of radioactive contamination.

Work at the plan is being done to reconnect Unit 5 to the national grid by the end of the day, the plant’s operator said in a statement./BNT

Third Zimbabwean Minister Dies of COVID-19 within a Week

Authorities confirmed that Zimbabwe's Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Joel Matiza died of COVID-19 on Friday.

Matiza has thus become the third government minister to die of the virus within a week and the fourth since the virus was first reported in the country in March 2020. As the pandemic continues ravaging the country, the nation has yet to bury Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo, who died of the virus on Wednesday. Earlier on January 15, Manicaland Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Ellen Gwaradzimba succumbed to the virus.

Zimbabwe's COVID-19 cases have surpassed the 30,000 mark after the country recorded 639 new cases in the last 24 hours, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said Friday. (ANI/Xinhua)

COVID-19 in Bulgaria: 566 New Cases, 8 with the New Strain of COVID-19

566 are new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours in Bulgaria. 9786 PCR tests were performed. This is indicated by the data in the Unified Information Portal.

1248 are newly cured, 58 are dead, 284 are in the intensive care unit. Most new cases are in Sofia, Plovdiv and Pazardzhik.

There are eight proven cases of the new strain of COVID-19 in Bulgaria, it became clear from a statement by the director of the National Institute of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, Professor Todor Kantardzhiev. Some of the patients have recently returned from Western Europe. A large-scale study on the spread of the new strain has begun, Kantardzhiev told NOVA. According to him, in a few days it will become clear whether the new, more contagious mutation is already spreading more widely in our country. 850 were vaccinated in the last 24 hours.

Greece Extends Entry Restrictions Until 8 February 2021

The Greek government has extended until 8 February 2021 restrictions for all arrivals in the country by air, land or sea transport, the Press Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.

Travelers are required to submit a negative result of a PCR test taken within 72 hours before the trip, as well as a completed PLF form with a generated QR code. Mandatory testing with a rapid (antigen) test at border crossing points remains in effect.

An exception to the test requirement is made for commercial truck drivers – both for a pre-made PCR and a rapid test of the relevant border checkpoint.

Companies providing passenger services (air, sea, land) are required to check that each passenger has a QR code prior to boarding. In the absence of one, the transport company is responsible for returning the passenger to the original point of departure.

Citizens arriving in Greece are subject to mandatory 7-day quarantine, which lasts 14 days in case the result of the rapid test is positive. Quarantine may be interrupted only if the stay in the country is shorter than the mandatory 7 days for self-isolation

We remind that there is an exception to the test requirements – both for a pre-made PCR and a rapid test at the relevant border checkpoint – for drivers of heavy vehicles carrying out commercial transport services.

We note that business travel is permitted only for extremely urgent reasons. We recommend that citizens concert their journey with the Greek border authorities in advance on a land border when it is for business resons, as well as other specific reasons, in order to ensure that they are allowed on Greek territory.

Those who are allowed to enter Greece and then leave the country will not be allowed re-entry until the expiry of these measures.
More information can be found at the following link: https://mfa.bg/bg/covid19map/Europe/Greece

If assistance is needed, Bulgarian citizens can contact the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Athens at the following telephone numbers: +30 210 67 48 107; +30 210 67 48 105; +30 210 67 48 106, as well as to the Consulate General of Bulgaria in Thessaloniki on tel. +359 999 999 8800 +30 2310 829 210 and on call outside working hours: +30 2310 869 510. Questions can also be asked at email addresses: embassy.athens@mfa.bg; embassbg@otenet.gr, consular.athens@mfa.bg; Consulate.Thessaloniki@mfa.bg. /BGNES

 

German Ambassador to Skopje Takes Stand on Bulgaria and North Macedonia Dispute

There are good neighborly relations between North Macedonia and Bulgaria. Bulgaria was the first to recognize North Macedonia as an independent state and is a strong supporter of the Europeanization of the whole region, especially as regards the process of rapprochement of North Macedonia with the EU.

"Furthermore, there is a Friendship Treaty and I think it should be filled with life and therefore implemented," German Ambassador to Skopje Anke Holstein said, as quoted by Focus new agency.

In an interview with TV 24, Holstein stressed that Germany will remain a strong supporter of North Macedonia. It is important, she said, to use the time for reform and bring Europe to North Macedonia.

Holstein quoted the Elysée Treaty as an example, stressing that it did not mention any obstacles such as identity, language and history between France and Germany.

"The Elysée Treaty was signed 18 years after the end of World War II and ended the so-called "natural rivalry" between the two countries, creating a political, legal and symbolic basis for mutual cooperation, the Ambassador said.

With regard to the European Union, she stressed that it is a community based of shared values: democracy, rule of law, independent judiciary, free media and full equality for all.

"These are values on which the EU as a whole is founded and this is our slogan "unity in diversity". We must not tolerate in the Member States the development of events that are far from these values," Holstein said.

 

 

Bulgaria: Ministry of Environment Slaps Stiff Fines on Polluting Mayors

Seventy-five mayors in Bulgaria have been penalized for polluting environment with urban waste, shows the information of the Ministry of Environment and Water concerning the control activities of Ministry’s 15 regional inspectorates ensuing from the Waste Management Act.

The penalty decrees are to a total worth of BGN 243 300, as some mayors are issued more than one. Over 700 inspections have been launched and carried out in over 1800 settlements.

The report shows that the the mayors in Burgas region are found guilty of the most of environmental violations, followed by Plovdiv and Sofia where 10 district mayors were penalized.

The biggest fine was slapped on the mayor of Dupnitsa worth of BGN 23,000. The mayors of Sopot, Plovdiv region, with BGN 17,000 fine and 5 penalty decrees, Asenovgrad and Boboshevo with BGN 9,000 in fines. With BGN 6,000 fine is the mayor of Sredets district in Burgas. The remaining fines are worth between BGN 1,400 and BGN 5,000. /BGNES

 

UK Government Mulls Full Closure of Country’s Borders

The full closure of the UK's borders has been "considered" by the government amid concerns about new COVID variants being imported from abroad, a minister has revealed.

This week, the government closed all UK travel corridors - which had allowed arrivals from some countries to avoid having to quarantine - until at least 15 February.

People coming to the UK from abroad also now have to show proof of a negative COVID test from up to 72 hours before their journey.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly under pressure from some members of his cabinet to go further and close Britain's borders completely to foreigners.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News that "everything is always kept under review" when asked if a full border shutdown could be introduced.

"We always keep things under review and it's been considered," he said.

"There is concern at the moment at number of mutant strains that there are - different strains of this coronavirus are cropping up in other countries.

"There are concerns that there is a risk that one day there will be a strain that might be able to evade the vaccine.

That's why last week the prime minister toughened up the current restrictions.

"We require a test before people travel and then they must quarantine while they're here.

"There are now no exemptions from that policy, so we've already toughened it up - we think that's the right approach for now but, obviously, everything is always kept under review."

The prime minister was this week accused of having "overruled" Home Secretary Priti Patel at the start of the pandemic last March by keeping the UK's borders open to foreign travellers.

According to The Daily Telegraph, some senior cabinet ministers are now once again pushing to close Britain's borders and copy the tough travel measures in place in countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

Asked if he was among those wanting to see the UK's borders closed, Mr Eustice told Sky News: "Personally I wouldn't like to see all borders closed.

"I'd like us to get past this pandemic and get the vaccine rolled out and be able to start opening things again rather than closing things.

"But we can't rule anything out but, for now, the restrictions we have in place - with that requirement for quarantine and the requirement for a pre-travel test - we think that is sufficient and the right and appropriate measure for now."

At a Downing Street briefing on Thursday, Ms Patel said the UK currently had "stringent measures" at borders "for a very good reason".

"We want to protect the health of members of the public and we want to make sure we can deliver and safeguard this world-leading vaccine roll-out," she said.

 

European Economy Shrinks Above Expectations in January

 Economic activity in the euro zone shrank markedly in January as stringent lockdowns to contain the coronavirus pandemic hit the bloc’s dominant service industry hard.

With hospitality and entertainment venues forced to remain closed across much of the continent, surveys on Friday highlighted sharp contractions in the services industry but also showed manufacturing remained strong as factories largely kept working.

IHS Markit’s flash composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for the euro zone, seen as a good guide to economic health, fell further below the 50 mark separating growth from contraction to 47.5 in January from December’s 49.1. A Reuters poll had predicted a fall to 47.6.

High infection rates are again forcing governments to extend and tighten containment measures,

"Don’t expect any meaningful economic recovery before the pandemic is brought under control", said experts.

A Reuters poll earlier this week showed the EU bloc’s economy was expected to grow 0.6% this quarter and would return to its pre-COVID-19 level within two years on hopes the rollout of vaccines will allow a return to some form of normality.

Activity in Germany’s services sector shrank for a fourth month in a row as a hard lockdown shuttered most non-essential businesses in Europe’s biggest economy. Despite slowing to a four-month low, manufacturing remained in expansion territory as exports kept German factories humming.

With hotels and restaurants closed, France’s service sector bore the brunt of national coronavirus restrictions and overall activity there shrank more than expected.

In Britain, outside the European Union, a third national lockdown sparked the sharpest drop in business activity since May. A post Brexit shift to a more bureaucratic trading arrangement with the EU also contributed to the decline.

Brazil Oxygen Supplies Running Short amid Second Covid Wave

Brazilian doctors and scientists are working hard to understand the new variant of Covid-19 that was found in the Amazon.

At the same time, doctors in the rainforest’s biggest city Manaus are struggling to control rising numbers of deaths from Covid-19 and soaring cases, as the country goes through a devastating second wave. 

In the city there's panic among the population that the oxygen might not be enough for all patients reports Bbc. Points are set in public places for distribution of oxygen supplies. 

Brazil has started vaccinating people, but with a collapsed health system in the Amazon, the light at the end of the tunnel feels a very long way away. 

On Thursday Brazil registered 1,316 new deaths due to coronavirus, the health ministry said, the third day in a row with more than 1,000 deaths. Deaths now total 214,147.

Israel Sets Record High Vaccinations in a Day

Israel has vaccinated 224,000 people against Covid-19 in a single day, reported country Health Minister.

Israel started vaccination process on December 19 and has progressed at an record pace.

 In comparison, European countries like Germany – which has nine times as many inhabitants, has given the first shot to 1.3 million people, and only 78,000 received both jabs necessary for full immunization.

This figure, which refers to Thursday, takes the total number of people who have received the first shot of the jab to 2.4 million, while 850,000 people have received both shots of the vaccine.

The Israeli government ordered a sufficient number of vaccine doses early on and has struck a deal with the vaccine manufacturer Pfizer to supply medical data in exchange.

Experts also believe the strong and highly digital public health system contributes to the vaccine campaign's success.

Israel is currently seeing a third wave of infections with a lockdown in place until the end of January.

People are only allowed to go a maximum of one kilometer from their homes.

Many of the new cases are registered in ultra-Orthodox communities, where large families often live in small quarters and defy government rules, instead following the guidelines issued by their spiritual leaders. Many ultra-Orthodox also refuse the vaccine.

Bulgarian Virologist: Novel Strain of Covid-19 Attacks Younger People Too

The new coronavirus mutation yields a higher viral load and affects younger people, warned deputy director of the National Center for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, Prof. Iva Hristova on Nova TV. We definitely will have to tighten the preventive measures, she said.

The distance between schoolchildren should be 1.5-2 meters if possible. She advised that windows in schools should be opened every 20 minutes. Hristova explained that the virus is active for hours in the room and everyone is exposed to infection, but how many will get sick was another issue.

Commenting on the vaccines, Hristova added that the antibodies and cells created by the vaccines are responsive to the new variants of the coronavirus. AstraZeneca is on standby and is testing the inclusion of DNA to cover the Brazilian Covid-19 mutation.

The future will show how much the morbidity will increase, but there will certainly be a rise, she said, adding that the measures must not be lifted for now.

She clarified that comprehensive information campaign will do much more good than pressure. Vaccination rates should not be a goal in itself. She warned that there was evidence of a recurrence of the coronavirus with another mutation.

With regard to the restaurant industry, Hristova said that she cannot decide whether to open the restaurants and nigh clubs now, but in this case it is a matter of action that can be reversible.

We remind that yesterday Health Minister Kostadin Angelov said he would propose an extension of the anti-epidemic measures by three months from 1 February.


 

 

All Hydro- and Thermal Power Plant in Bulgaria Activated to Compensate for Turned off Reactor of Kozloduy NPP

The Bulgarian Electricity System Operator (ESO) has activated the replacement capacities of all thermal and hydro power plants in the country to compensate for the generation following the automatic shutdown of Unit 5 of the Kozloduy NPP at 1:16 am on 22 January 2021. The ESO ensures stable and uninterrupted functioning of the power generating system, the operator reported.

Earlier, it became clear that Unit 5 of the Kozloduy NPP was switched off minutes after 01:00 am this night after the reactor protection system was activated during a routine operation. The NPP management assured that there is no radiation hazard radioactivity level was within normal boundaries.  

Currently work is underway to prepare Unit 5 for restart, planned for the end of the day.   

 

 

European Commission Proposes Mapping Coronavirus Occurrence Rate in Member States

The European Commission has proposed the inclusion of a new category in the map of Europe, which identifies the varying degrees of coronavirus spread. It will be colored in dark red, that is, it will indicate areas where the infection spreads especially quickly.

People coming from such areas will most likely be asked to have made a PCR test in advance and will almost certainly be quarantined upon arrival in another country. They will be explained that they should not travel not only abroad, but also inside their country, said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

The proposal will be discussed on Monday in the framework of  IPCR mechanism set up to reach political-level arrangements for responding to crisis situations. Each country has the right to determine on its own what measures to apply at the borders, but they must be synchronized with the neighbors and not lead to borders closure, Von der Leyen reminded. For the EU, free movement is a fundamental right and the pandemic has caused serious problems in the Schengen area, where former state borders have been practically restored.

Von der Leyen quoted several examples and explained to journalists why Europe is practically an area of contagion, but with different hotbeds for which borders are not a barrier. Anti-epidemic measures must help sort out employees and activities that cannot be stopped, but impose a ban, for example, on shopping in a neighboring country.

As for the external borders, Von der Leyen said after yesterday's virtual meeting of the leaders of the 27 Member States that pre-travel tests may be required for third-country nationals seeking to enter the EU for imperative reasons.

 

Talking about vaccination certificates, both she and Charles Michel, President of the European Council, reminded that documentation is a medical necessity and it has a global standard - the WHO yellow certificate. But the idea of using such a document for traveling between EU countries should be considered very carefully. Because we don't yet know how long the vaccine is effective, does an already vaccinated person infect other people and what about the political rights of those who simply don't have access to a vaccine or have good reason not to get vaccinated. The debate on this issue is forthcoming.

 

 

Navalny’s Team Released Two-Hour Video Featuring Putin’s Deluxe Palace in Crimea

Alexei Navalny's team on Tuesday released a two-hour video featuring details of a luxurious property on Russia's southern Black Sea coast purportedly belonging to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The YouTube feature, accompanied by a blog post from the jailed dissident, claims Putin's property cost $1.35 billion (€1.1 billion) and was paid for "with the largest bribe in history."

The video, released less than two days after Navalny was arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport and subsequently jailed. It alleges that the private estate is 39 times the size of Monaco. Among the facilities it is said to boast were a casino within a sprawling mansion, an ice rink and vineyards.

Described as the "most expensive palace in the world," the palace complex spans some 7,800 hectares (about 19,300 acres), and also includes a church, an amphitheater, a teahouse and a helipad. The palace was allegedly funded through an elaborate corruption scheme involving Putin's inner circle in return for a favor.

"It is the most secretive and well-guarded facility in Russia, without exaggeration," Navalny says in the video. "This isn't a country house, it’s not a cottage, it's not a residence — it's an entire city, or rather a kingdom. It has impregnable fences, its own port, its own security, a church, its own permit system, a no-fly zone, and even its own border checkpoint. Its like a separate state inside of Russia. And in this state there is a single and irreplaceable czar. Putin."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the allegations were old but that the property, near the resort town of Gelendzhik, did not belong to Putin. The allegations were first made in 2010 by Sergei Kolesnikov, a businessman with connections to Putin before his time in politics. On paper, the property appears to be owned by businessman and billionaire Alexander Ponomarenko.

"I am not familiar with the investigation," said Peskov. "However, I can say right away that this record is old. Many years ago, we already explained that Putin has no palace in Gelendzhik."

The video was released soon after Navalny was detained upon his return to Russia from Germany for the first time since he was poisoned. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

 

Bulgaria: Nevestino Villagers Start Strouma River Cleanup on Their Own

A “cleaning operation” for the removal of urban waste along the Strouma River near the village of Nevestino has started. The recent floods turned the river bed into dumpsite. The locals collected nylon bags and plastic bottles manually, bTV reported.

We keep on clearing the waste and lay ballast and rocks,” explained Vasilena Taskova, ecologist from Nevestino municipality.

“We have cordoned off the area so that people don’t cross the bridge,” she added.

The waste stuck in tree branches and shrubs along the river banks have to be removed by hand and shrubs to be closely cropped where necessary. It will take two or three weeks to clear the waste from the Strouma River bed.

 

 

Russian Diplomat Expelled from Albania for Breach of Anti-Epidemic Measures

The Albanian government has officially expelled a Russian diplomat from the country for violating epidemiological measures imposed to counter the coronavirus pandemic, Albania’s Top Channel TV reported Thursday.

"The Albanian government has declared Russian diplomat Alexei Krivosheyev, who was not following the anti-coronavirus measures, persona non grata, mandating that he leave the country within 72 hours from the official announcement," the channel quoted the statement by the Albanian Foreign Ministry.

At the same time, it is noted that the diplomat has been reported to breach the guidelines since April 2020. "Unfortunately, <…> the diplomat continued to violate the measures despite expressions of good will from both sides to stop these violations," the Albanian ministry underlined.

Moreover, the ministry underlined that the country seeks to improve friendly relations with Russia, voicing hope that Moscow will be understanding of "this decision made in the difficult period for the whole world."

According to Johns Hopkins University, Albania has recorded more than 69,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,200 deaths./TASS

 

Will Tokyo Olympics Be Canceled over Covid-19 Pandemic?

A top Japanese official denied a report Friday that government officials privately believe the upcoming Tokyo Olympics will have to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported.

On Thursday, the Times of London reported Japanese officials are now focusing their efforts on securing the next free timeslot for the Summer Games, in 2032. According to the report, there is private consensus that there is no way for the Olympics to be held this summer, and officials are seeking a way to save face and secure future hosting rights.

According to Reuters, Manabu Sakai, Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary, told reporters Friday that the report was false.

The Games were already postponed by a year, and Olympic officials have said they will not be further delayed.

In a statement Friday, the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee did not address the report, but said it and its partners “are fully focused on hosting the games this summer,” according to the Associated Press.

Canceling the Games would be a major blow to athletes, as well as to Comcast’s CMCSA, +0.51% NBCUniversal and its fledgling streaming service, Peacock. In 2014, NBC paid more than $7 billion for the rights to broadcast the Olympics through 2032. The Olympics are historically among the highest-rated events on TV, and Peacock has been counting on the Olympics as the key to driving new subscriptions. Comcast shares were little-changed Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach told Japan’s Kyodo News that the Summer Games are still on track to open July 23 in Tokyo, and added “There is no Plan B.”

“We are fully committed to make these games safe and successful,” he told the publication.

While Japan has fared relatively well during the pandemic, a spike in new cases, as well as the discovery of new variants around the world, have renewed concern, and a state of emergency has been declared in much of the country. All foreign travelers have also been banned.

Even with COVID-19 vaccinations getting under way worldwide, the massive logistics of pulling off the Olympic Games — from qualifying competitions in each individual country, to the influx of fans and tourists to the host country, to the massive Olympic Village where athletes would live in close quarters — are daunting in even the best circumstances, much less in a pandemic.

Two surveys earlier this month found 80% of those polled in Japan believe the Olympics should be canceled or postponed again, or said they believe the Games won’t take place.

 

CEO of Pirogov Emergency Hospital: What’s Going on in Europe Is Coronavirus Third Wave

It has not been officially confirmed yet that the new strain of coronavirus  has already been detected in Bulgaria, said Prof. Asen Baltov, Director of Pirogov Emergency Hospital, quoted by BGNES

“We say these things not to scare people. What is happening in Europe, in my opinion, is a third wave of the pandemic. It is apparent in the Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Spain. The new cases are snowballing. The fact that Bulgaria is “an oasis” at the moment should not dull our attention, we must be seriously prepared,” Baltov added.

“We're talking about a much more contagious modification of the virus. This strain is much more aggressive, if not contained it will displace the weaker strain and more people will be infected,” the Professor said. In Pirogov we are ready, those extra 450 beds we acquired are ready to be available again for patients with coronavirus.

“About 25% of patients in our hospital are those who have coronavirus. We currently have 18 patients in intensive care and 100 with a medium-severe form of COVID-19. Eight patients who were on ventilator now return to a normal lifestyle,” Baltov said further.

 

New US President Will Take Tough Stand on Russia

President Biden is seeking a five-year extension with Russia on the only remaining treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals just days before it expires, said two senior U.S. officials.

At the same time, his administration is preparing to impose new costs on Russia pending a newly requested intelligence assessment of its recent activities. The officials said Biden is ruling out a “reset” in bilateral relations with Moscow as many U.S. presidents have done since the end of the Cold War.

“As we work with Russia, so, too, will we work to hold Russia accountable for their reckless and aggressive actions that we’ve seen in recent months and years,” said a senior U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive security matter.

The decision to seek a five-year treaty extension, which Russia supports but the Biden administration hadn’t settled on until now, reflects the rapidly approaching deadline for Washington to renew the New START pact Feb.?5, the officials said.

President Donald Trump tried to conclude a shorter extension with Moscow in the final months of his presidency, but he failed to reach an agreement after his nuclear envoy spent months trying to persuade China to join the accord before dropping that demand. 

Letting the treaty expire would allow Moscow and Washington to deploy an unlimited number of nuclear-armed submarines, bombers and missiles in what many experts fear could spark a nuclear arms race and further exacerbate U.S.-Russia relations.

“New START is manifestly in the national security interest of the United States and makes even more sense when the relationship with Russia is adversarial,” the senior U.S. official said.

As the Biden administration informs Moscow of its terms for an extension, the president will order Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to provide him a full intelligence assessment of Russia’s alleged interference in the 2020 election, use of chemical weapons against opposition leader Alexei Navalny and bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, officials said. 

Biden is also asking Haines for an assessment of the massive cyberattack on federal agencies and departments related to the SolarWinds software breach, which many analysts and government officials have blamed on Russia. The request for the intelligence assessments will go out this week, said the officials.

“We will use these assessments to inform our response to Russian aggression in the coming weeks,” another senior official said.https://msn.com

 

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Comments on Key Takeaways from EC Online Meeting

The reports of my European colleagues raise great concern - a huge number of infected, huge number of deaths, overburdened healthcare system, huge external debts and a slump in the GDP of the leading EU Member States, which is why after the health crisis is over there will inevitably be a very severe financial and economic crisis, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said after the end of the European Council online meeting in which he participated.

"Unfortunately, the virus mutates and there is no general guiding rule which we could follow to prevent its spread," Borissov said, adding that Member States are acting according to the situation. With regard to Bulgaria, the Prime Minister expressed confidence that the current approach to handling the crisis, i.e. mobilization of society, with distancing and other preventive measures, is correct, pointing out that in Bulgaria the measures are exceptionally liberal against the backdrop of the other countries.

The Prime Minister also emphasized another issue that was addressed at the EU Council meeting – the delay in vaccination in some of the Member States. Prime Minister Borissov was adamant that the vaccination plan in Bulgaria is implemented in the most reasonable, balanced and correct way, including guarantees that all citizens who received the first dose of the vaccine will receive the second one.

By March 2021, EU Member States must set vaccination goals for the inoculation of at least 80% of healthcare professionals and social workers, as well as 70% of the adult population over 80 by the end of summer. This will be what EU countries will strive for, announced Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.

"The European Medicines Agency is working towards increasing production capacity with vaccine manufacturers as well as with the European Commission. I hope what we have paid for - the large quantities, will come to Bulgaria in the near future," he added.

"Genom? sequencing needs to be increased urgently - up to 5-10% of positive test results. In this case too, the European Commission can help, but we also have this expert potential", added Borisov.

Talking about single market and free movement when the measures to contain the pandemic have to be tightened, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that we as a country are ready with both a digital passport and a vaccination certificate.

'But I think it's going to be very difficult to implement because in the single market we have free movement of people. Yes, each Member State will probably implement some mechanisms for admitting other citizens into their countries, but at the moment I do not think such a decision will be taken", Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said further.

 

EU Leaders Agreed to Keep Borders Open, Mull New Restrictions on Travel

European Union leaders agreed that borders should remain open and assessed more measures to counter the spread of coronavirus variants during a video summit Thursday as the bloc's top disease control official said urgent action was needed to stave off a new wave of hospitalizations and deaths.

Expressing great concern about the virus' mutations, the 27 leaders looked at further border restrictions like limits on all non-essential travel, better tracking of mutations and improving coordination of lockdowns.

Though worried that another surge of deaths across the EU was imminent, they could not immediately agree on whether or not to halt non-essential travel.

"It is of great importance not to travel, but you cannot immediately enforce this legally," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after the conference call.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen insisted on the importance of keeping borders open to ensure that goods continue to move smoothly while introducing measures "that keep us all safe."

She said leaders discussed a proposal to introduce new trans-border "dark red zones" where infections rates are particularly high and where all non-essential travel should be discouraged. Travelers from these areas could be required to undergo tests before their departure and be placed in isolation upon arrival in another location. Von der Leyen said the commission will make precise recommendations to member states in the coming days.

Some 400,000 EU citizens have died from COVID-19-related causes since the start of the pandemic, and the head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Andrea Ammon, said that "an increasing number of infections will lead to higher hospitalization and death rates across all age groups, particularly for those in older age groups."

 

Bulgaria: Minor Incident in Kozloduy NPP, Unit 5 Temporarily Closed

An incident  has caused an automatic shutdown of the reactor in Unit 5 of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant. MP of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms Ramadan Atalay confirmed the news during morning program on BNT.

He said that the source of information the Executive Director of Kozloduy NPP.

At 1:17 a.m., a technological operation triggered the automatic reactor protection system. The necessary actions have been taken and unit‘s work will be resumed again, Atalay explained.

All operational systems have been checked. There is nothing dangerous for the public, the MP was adamant.

It became clear that only one unit of Kozloduy NPP is currently working from the operational data of the Electricity System Operator (ESO) on load over the power distribution network. It shows that at 7:58 a.m., the energy generated by the nuclear power plant is 1,009 megawatts, which means that only one unit operates in Kozloduy.

 

Weather in Bulgaria: Still Warm and Quiet

Warming trend will continue today, the national weather service reports. In some regions of Bulgaria day temperatures may reach 15 C.

Light wind from south-southwest will rise to moderate in the eastern parts of the country. In the coming days the warm spell will persist.

The atmospheric pressure is higher than average but will keep falling.

 

 

Covid-19 in Bulgaria: 455 Newly Infected, 6 Percent of Tests Are Positive

In the past 24 hours, 455 newly infected and 2,256 cured of coronavirus were registered in Bulgaria. That's the case count statistics as of January 22.

Ninety people died within this period.

On 21 January, 7,674 tests were made – 3,567 PCR and 4,107 antigen tests, as 6% were positive.

During the day, 1,124 people were vaccinated, now the total number of Bulgarians vaccinated against COVID-19 is 25,251.

A total of 177,354 were cured, given 213,864 of diagnosed cases, 10,142 people are quarantined.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 8,741 lethal outcomes.

By today, 3 045 patients with COVID-19 are in hospitals, as    297 of them undergo intensive therapy.

Caseload by regions: Blagoevgrad - 9 new cases, Burgas - 44, Varna - 21, Veliko Tarnovo - 6, Vidin - 4, Vratsa - 13, Gabrovo -1, Dobrich - 0, Kardzhali - 10, Kyustendil - 22, Lovech - 6, Montana - 2, Pazardzhik - 30, Pernik - 3, Pleven - 28, Plovdiv - 45, Razgrad - 4, Ruse - 15, Silistra - 5, Sliven - 16, Smolyan - 2, Sofia-city -105, Sofia-region - 12, Stara Zagora - 20, Targovishte - 4, Haskovo - 10, Shumen - 13, Yambol - 5.

 

 

 

 

US Ambassador H.E. Herro Mustafa: Joe Biden Is Unifier, Bulgaria Is Our Important Ally

"I've worked with Joe Biden before, and I know he's a unifier. In his inaugural speech he touched upon the important themes - love, hope, optimism - that's exactly what America exemplifies," said U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria H.E. Herro Mustafa in an interview with the Bulgarian National Radio after President Joe Biden assumed office officially.

Herro Mustafa expressed confidence that under the new US administration, transatlantic relations with the European Union will become even stronger.

In her words, the peaceful transition of power and the restoration of the values of government through fair elections, freedom of speech and assembly are at the core of the American democracy.

"The inauguration of a new president is a beautiful, symbolic event that fills me with great pride and reverence for all that America embodies," the United States Ambassador to Bulgaria noted.

"We have held inauguration ceremonies every four years since 1789. These democracy-bound institutions and traditions are important, and yesterday's ceremony really thrilled me, as any inauguration. This is a renewal of America's commitment to the ideals of democracy," said H.E.Herro Mustafa.

"Yesterday we witnessed a peaceful transition of power. Former President Trump wished Biden's new administration great luck and success and also said that the future of our country has never been better. Our democracy has been tested in the past, but it has always come out stronger after these trials," the Ambassador said.

As an example, Herro Mustafa quoted the right of incumbent President Trump's to bring fraud allegations even before the Supreme Court during November election.

In response to a question about the main challenge for President Joe Biden, who is taking office for the first time amid an ongoing impeachment process of his predecessor, Donald Trump, Herro Mustafa commented:

"The challenge is the same as all recent presidents have faced - to promote unity as well as the way forward for our country. With unity, we can achieve great things - yesterday Joe Biden said it was Democracy Day and I believe that."

Commenting on the new US foreign policy and issues of returning to transatlantic cooperation in fullness, the US ambassador added:

"It is too early to say what the new administration would do, they have been in office only one day, but obviously the priority will be to deal with the pandemic, and I am confident that relations with the European Union, which have always been important, will become stronger. I look forward to even closer cooperation with my colleagues in the European Union."

Herro Mustafa also commented on gas projects such as Turkish Stream and Nord Stream.

"Energy has been an important issue for U.S. administrations over the past two decades, and the new administration will continue to focus on these issues. Regarding your question about Turkish Stream, Nord Stream and other pipelines, I will wait for the new administration to propose its course before commenting," she explained.

To the question about the Middle East and what to expect in political relations there, given that Herro Mustafa was an adviser to Biden while he was vice president, the U.S. Ambassador pointed out:

"I was an adviser on Middle East and South and Central Asia issues. It's tradition for diplomats to wait for the administration to answer these questions directly once they're ready with the answers on what course they will take.'

Asked what would be the most important thing for the new administration in US-Bulgaria relations - will compliance with the rule of law be important, she said she expected Bulgaria to continue to be an important ally of the United States.

"The new administration has been in office for less than a day. But what I can say for sure is that Bulgaria will continue to be an important ally for the United States. I will continue to work towards it as I have worked in the last year. Now more than ever, we need to support our partners, including to protect the rule of law," Said Herro Mustafa.

She also said that the US will continue to support different ethnic communities and confessions, as well as the communities vulnerable to social exclusion in Bulgaria. As an example, Mustafa pointed to Joe Biden's cabinet appointments, which are very diverse - there are many women who participate in it.

"The events in the United States to this day, make me realize that despite everything the American people want our vibrant democracy to continue to function and believe in the processes that guarantee a government of the people and a peaceful transition of power," H.E. Mustafa said.

According to her, the word historians will use to describe this era of American history is "resilience" .

"Violence and lawlessness have no place in any democratic system. But what is important to me after the the Capitol storming is the rapid restoration of order and the justice for those who breach the law," Mustafa said.

For the first time in history, a colored woman became vice president of the United States. According to Herro Mustafa, there are many amazing women not only in politics and diplomacy, but in journalism all over the world: "Women can change everything in the global political system - that's my answer."

 

 

Europe’s External Borders May Be Sealed Amid Rising Coronavirus Toll

Europe proposed shutting its external borders to foreigners for 30 days on Monday in a bid to turn the page on its scramble to contain the coronavirus, but it drew criticism for doing too little, too late.

With the official death toll in Italy now above 1,800 and the number of cases growing rapidly around the continent, the crisis has exposed divisions in the 27-member European Union.

Some countries have introduced border controls inside what is normally Europe’s Schengen zone of open borders, while others have refused to share medical data or equipment.

Calls for unity from Brussels have so far seemed to fall on deaf ears. Images from crossings in Europe show vehicles in long lines waiting to cross what would normally be invisible borders.

“The less travel, the more we can contain the virus. Therefore ... I propose to the heads of state and government to introduce temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU,” said the head of the EU’s executive, Ursula von der Leyen.

“These travel restrictions should be in place for an initial period of 30 days, but can be prolonged as necessary.”

Leaders of EU member states will discuss the proposals during a videoconference on Tuesday. Diplomatic sources said the they were championed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has pushed for co-ordinated European action.

The plan would cover 30 countries: all EU member states excluding Ireland, as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, which are part of the Schengen zone even though they are not part of the European Union.

Britain, which left the EU in January, and Ireland would have to decide independently whether to fall in line by sealing their borders. But their nationals would retain the right to travel to Europe in the meantime, according to EU officials.

From Portugal in the west to Hungary in the east, European countries have unilaterally tightened frontier controls, triggering a warning earlier on Monday from Brussels that chaotic measures risk hurting food and medicine supplies, and aggravating the crisis.

The proposals on shutting Europe’s external borders to foreigners, which include a raft of exemptions, were viewed by some as an effort by Brussels to appear in control.

“We do know the threat is already inside, the threat is not coming from the outside anymore. So it’s more about political messaging,” an EU official said, requesting anonymity.

Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform think-tank, agreed. He described the proposals as “window-dressing ... to cover up the embarrassment of member-states closing their borders to each other.”

“I don’t see the potential benefits,” he said.

 

Bulgaria: Hotel in Sunny Beach Resort "Saved" Bleak Season with Cannabis Greenhouse

The special police operation to counter drug production and trafficking was carried out yesterday by officers of the Criminal Police Department with the Ministry of Interior Directorate in Burgas and their colleagues from the Regional Police Department in Nessebar, under the supervision of the Prosecutor's Office.

A search of a hotel in Sunny Beach resort was undertaken as part of the raid. On the top floor, police officers found that two rooms rented by a 47-year-old man from Nessebar were fully equipped and adapted for a greenhouse in which, under all the necessary conditions, more than 100 cannabis plants were grown in pots.

Police found and seized: handmade filters tailored to the premises size to neutralize the smell emitted by plants; 11 heating lamps with aluminium reflectors adapted for artificial light; specially installed ventilation system; temperature and moisture measuring devices; current converters; five tubes containing different nourishing and fertilizer liquids.

The man was remanded in custody for 24 hours. In the case, expedient proceedings have been initiated, the collected information has been reported to the Burgas District Prosecutor's Office and under its supervision the investigation continues.

 

Diplomatic Scandal Arising Between EU and UK

A diplomatic row has broken out between the UK and EU over the status of the bloc's ambassador in London.

The UK is refusing to give Joao Vale de Almeida the full diplomatic status that is granted to other ambassadors.

The Foreign Office is insisting he and his officials should not have the privileges and immunity afforded to diplomats under the Vienna Convention.

It is understood not to want to set a precedent by treating an international body in the same way as a nation state.

As it stands, the ambassador would not have the chance to present his credentials to the Queen like other diplomatic heads of mission.

The British decision is in marked contrast to 142 other countries around the world where the EU has delegations and where its ambassadors are all granted the same status as diplomats representing sovereign nations.

Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, has written to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, to express his "serious concerns".

The issue is expected to be discussed by EU foreign ministers next Monday when they meet for the first time since the post-Brexit transition period ended on 31 December.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office wants to treat the EU delegation only as representatives of an international organisation.

This means EU diplomats would not have the full protection of the Vienna Convention, giving them immunity from detention, criminal jurisdiction and taxation.

The EU argues it is not a typical international organisation because it has its own currency, judicial system and the power to make law.

In his letter to Mr Raab last November, Mr Borrell says: "Your service have sent us a draft proposal for an establishment agreement about which we have serious concerns.

Some in the EU also fear hostile states might copy the UK and downgrade the protections granted to EU diplomats in their own countries. This could open them up to being harassed and make them easier for them to be expelled.

A European Commission spokesman said: "The UK, as a signatory to the Lisbon Treaty, is well aware of the EU's status in external relations, and was aware and supportive of this status while it was a member of the EU./Bbc

Bulgarian Ambassador to US: I Hope New President Will Waiver Visas for Bulgarians

Apart from the deep rift in the society that will need a long time to bridge finding adequate solutions, another big challenge is the coronavirus pandemic. So the Bulgarian Ambassador to the US Tihomir Stoytchev described the challenges before the new US administration in an interview for Nova TV.   

Commenting on the US relations with Bulgaria, he said that administrations come and go but the friendly and partner bilateral relations remain in place.

“The modernization of the Bulgarian Air Force is ongoing following the government’s decision on the purchase of F-16 fighter jets. The same applies to 5G roll-out plan implementation. The completion of gas interconnector with Greece and the regional Balkan hub is of crucial importance, Stoytchev added.

“This partnership is also very important with a view to the visa waiver program. We believe that Bulgaria has met all the criteria and the only one that is not complied with at the moment is the percentage of the declined visa applications. Nevertheless the trend is positive. Some years ago 18% of visa applications were turned down while in 2019 it was only 9,75%, Stoytchev was adamant.

In his opinion, it is inadmissible to divide the European citizens in two categories. “The fact is that for many years now Bulgaria does not pose a risk to the US. The case of Canada is a good example. I really hope that the new President will waiver visas for Bulgarians,” the Ambassador said.

 

 

 

Opera Star Placido Domingo Celebrates His 80th Birthday

On January 21, the Italian opera singer and conductor, one of the most outstanding performers of our time, Placido Domingo turns 80. He was born into a family of artists and became interested in music early. Domingo first learned to play the piano and conduct, and later switched to vocals. He made his opera debut in the late 1950s. In his more than 60-year career, Placido Domingo has played about 150 parts. For over 60 years, his distinctive, sensual voice has enchanted music lovers. 

Despite his age, his COVID illness in 2020 and the #MeToo accusations, the man just keeps on singing. Even at 80, Placido Domingo is still on stage.

 

Russian Repression Machine in Action: Rallies in Support of Navalny Planned for January 23 Will Be Suppressed

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has told law enforcement bodies to suppress unsanctioned protests planned for January 23, demanding that access to websites calling on citizens to take to the streets be blocked, the press service of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office informed TASS on Thursday.

Earlier, supporters of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny spread calls online for attending unsanctioned rallies in his support. "Law enforcement bodies have been told to take preventive measures, and if there are grounds for it, take administrative action against those responsible," the press service informed. The Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media will restrict access to unlawful information.

The press service added that people who are calling for unlawful actions have been warned that they are breaking the law.

Earlier, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media informed that it had addressed the VK and TikTok management with a demand to delete posts calling for participation in unlawful protests and to avoid involvement of underage persons in unlawful actions./TASS

 

Gallup International: Five Parties Will Be in Bulgarian Parliament for Sure

Five parties will enter the next parliament for sure and for the other two the election campaign will be crucial, according to data of a Gallup International poll conducted among 1,010 people between January 7 and 15. Parliamentary elections are scheduled by President Rumen Radev for April 4.

Gallup said the data was a snapshot for mid-January and was not a prediction of an election result. The forecasts will be extremely difficult to make because of the uncertainty in the expected turnout, as well as because of the overall alarming social climate.

The largest share of respondents - 22.9%, replied that they would vote for GERB (in coalition with the UDF). According to the agency, the government is likely to receive a bonus for reducing coronavirus cases in the country, and so far the low vaccination rate appears to be still having no impact on the government's reputation.

 

The second most favored party among the respondents is BSP - with 19.2%. Along with GERB, BSP lost voters’ support in the summer (though not as much as GERB). The agency commented that the drop in support for BSP in the summer was also due to the fact that the protesters recognized other parties  as alternative and at the moment they are somewhat preventing BSP from monopolizing the potential protesting and punitive vote against the government.

The party of Slavi Trifonov “There is Such a People” garners 12,4% support and will for sure hurdle the 4-percent barrier and make it to the Parliament. For now, the party stopped growing and social analysts comment that it may have effect on the expected results of its election runners in different constituencies.  

As for the MRF, the current result of 10.9% of potential voters could rise if the party's expected mobilization as the election approaches is taken into account.

"Democratic Bulgaria" has a steady position among the parties with the prospect of being in parliament. This month - with 6.2%. However, there is a big difference between those firmly declaring that they will vote and the overall array of potential votes for this party, which means possible fluctuations in the voters’ support.

According to Gallup, for those running for election together, the IMRO/National Front (4.6%) and "Stand Up.bg"/"The Poisonous Trio" (4.5%) a strong election campaign will be essential.

The share of those who will vote but have not decided yet for whom is 10.4%. Only a third of those intending to vote admit that the health risks would turn them down. The same applies to the proportion of people who say they will vote but can't say who for.

 

 

 

 

Bulgarian Parliament Adopts Law Recognizing Sign Language as Official Language

Proposed by the government, the law was adopted conclusively on Thursday to make what many consider a breakthrough in deaf people's rights. According to the new law, deaf people in Bulgaria are entitled to free translation services, the cultural and language identity of their community is recognized and an attitude of respect to them will be encouraged in the broader community.

The activities following from the adoption of the law will be financed by the national budget through the Labor and Social
Policy Ministry, other competent institutions and medical establishments, as well as through European and international
programs.

The leaders of central and local administrative units will have until the end of 2022 to roll out administrative services for deaf people.

The kindergartens and schools that teach children with impaired hearing and deaf children, will have special sign language
classes. Deaf students in regular schools will have the right to use sign language when they are examined or being tested.   
 The parents of deaf children will be entitled to sign language training.

Sign language teachers will have a master's degree in Bulgarian Language and Literature with additional training in sign language, and universities will be required to provide such training. Deaf university students will be entitled to 60 hours of free sign-language translation per semester.

Sign language translator will be a job in its own right and translators will be trained in master's programs and certified
 by established standards on a par with all other professionals./BTA
   

Bulgaria’s Chief Health Inspector: UK Covid-19 Strain Will Spill over to Entire Europe

Bulgaria is 27th in coronavirus morbidity and 6th in mortality rate in the EU. We top mortality charts in the Balkans. The highest morbidity rates are documented in Vratsa, Pleven, Pernik.

That's what the Chief State Health Inspector, Assoc. Prof. Angel Kunchev said during the traditional briefing on the spread of the coronavirus in the country, BGNES reports.

The developments in Europe do not inspire optimism at all, unlike what we are seeing in Bulgaria. The new strain does not lead to a more severe course of the disease, the bad thing is that its transmission rate is several times higher, Kunchev said.

Our colleagues in Europe are extremely worried about the situation in the UK and Ireland. The new strain accounts for  75% of the new infections in the UK in just a month, in Ireland it is 40%. All those who test positive there are diagnosed with the new strain, or,to put it more correctly, a new variant of coronavirus.

The picture is similar in the Netherlands. In Bulgaria so far, 10 Covid-19 patients have infected between 5 and 6 people. Currently in the UK, 10 people infect 27. This is what about to happen throughout Europe, informs Assoc. Prof. Angel Kunchev. I hope this will happen in Bulagria later, so that hospitals are more prepared to cope with a new wave of patients who will need treatment, Kunchev said.

He was adamant that if we lift the preventive anti-epidemic measures abruptly, we would very soon face the new coronaviru variant. There is no way that the new strain has not emerged in Bulgaria and the Balkans, he stressed.

In theopinion of the Director of Pirogov Emergency Hospital  Prof. Asen Baltov, the so-called "British strain” is already in Bulgaria, although there are no official data to confirm it.

There are doubts of the new strain in four samples of people returning from abroad, Prof. Baltov said, adding that its rate of occurrence would now start gaining momentum.

He called for responsibility and compliance with the preventive measures. /BGNES

 

 

January 21: International Hugs Day, Babinden in Bulgaria

Today, the world marks the International Day of Embrace. The day was first celebrated in 1986 in the United States, but quickly spread to other countries. The "tradition" that is observed on this day is to give friendly hugs, even to strangers.

This year the holiday will be slightly different, as it is marred by the pandemic. We are unlikely to see happy enthusiasts giving out "free hugs" in the streets on a cold day. However, coronavirus makes us appreciate the embrace even more strongly - especially that of our loved ones.

The embrace is especially important for human emotions and accompanies us from the first breath of air. Psychologists believe that if a baby is not cuddled and touched, it may even die. That's why this gesture gives us much more than the words we say.

And will you embrace your loved ones today?

On January 21, Midwives‘s Day (Babinden) is celebrated in our country by the Julian calendar. Once upon a time, the holiday was dedicated to the elderly women who helped women in labor, and today it is a professional holiday of obstetricians and gynecologists.

Babinden is one of the big folk women's holidays dedicated to midwives who helped the young women in childbirth. The customs observed on this day require to show respect to the elderly women who helped women in labor.

 

Bulgarian Scientist: Lung Thermometer Detects Coronavirus Faster than a PCR Test

A device as big as a telephone receiver can detect the presence of Covid-19 even before the virus could be detected by a PCR. It has been developed by a team of Italian, Spanish and Bulgarian scientists and is already used in diagnosing and tracking the infection.

Eight exhalations into the device are sufficient to conclude whether inflammation has occurred in the airways. In this way, the temperature of the lungs can be measured and ? newly emerged infection can be caught early. With a coronavirus infection, like the flu, the temperature is thought to rise before clinical symptoms appear.

“It is a device that we can conditionally call a thermometer for the lungs”, explains Prof. Todor Popov from the Saint Ivan Rilski University Multi-Profile Hospital, a leading scientist in the international project. “In principle, there are various types of thermometers and they give us an idea of ??whether there is any inflammation in the body. However, when we measure the temperature of the exhaled air, we get information not only about the general temperature of the body, but also about the condition of the respiratory system and how much inflammation there is in it.”

The device is designed for patients with asthma, because the disease causes inflammation of the respiratory tract and therefore the temperature rises. And since a similar process takes place with a Covid-19 infection, the international team decided to use the already licensed equipment to monitor the dynamics of the temperature. This is done not only in Italy and Spain, where there are many more patients, but also in Bulgaria.

In Bulgaria, first the so-called thermometers were given out to people in contact with coronavirus patients. With the help of these devices, they measure their temperature in the morning and evening, and the values are automatically registered on a special website and it is monitored whether an infection will develop in their lungs.

“Here we are talking about telemedicine, about remote measurement of the most modern type”, says Prof. Todor Popov. “In this way the patient does not come into contact with another person and avoids infecting them, and we understand how the infection progresses and try to track it over time. When did the temperature of the exhaled air start to rise, when did the symptoms appear – things that are important from the point of view of disease control.”

In the opinion of Prof. Todor Popov, the coronavirus epidemic in Bulgaria is subsiding, but whether this will be a lasting trend and a new wave will not follow, no one can predict.

 

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister: Too Early For Restaurants To Resume Work

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is reluctant to allow the opening of restaurants and other eating facilities. He said so during the regular briefing of the National Operational Headquarters (NOH).

It is the second time that the Prime Minister comes to the briefing during of the health authorities at the Council of Ministers surprisingly and interrupts a speech by a member of NOH.

Until January 31, we will monitor the situation, Borissov said. At the beginning of his statement, he pointed out that out of 30,000 companies registered in the services industry - pubs, restaurants, etc., only 6,300 have applied for the state support. Why - I leave you to judge for yourself, Borissov told the journalists and the public.


Bulgaria’s President Had Meeting with Foreign Minister of Serbia

Bulgaria and Serbia need to encourage mutual investment and economic partnership in areas with high added value such as information technologies. It is time for the economic exchange to have priority over trade and to work towards creation of joint ventures and exports to third markets.This was stated by President Rumen Radev, who, together with Vice President Iliana Yotova, held a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Nikola Selakovic who is in Bulgaria on official visit.

Bulgaria’s Head of State and Vice President defined the first after 2014 visit of Serbia’s Foreign Minister as a proof that the new government of Serbia sets the development of good neighborly relations and cooperation between Bulgaria and Serbia as its high priority. The visit is also a sign of commitment to accelerate the work on the construction of transport and energy infrastructure which connects the two countries and creates more favorable opportunities for business.

Nikola Selakovic underscored that mutual economic cooperation has been developing well, and the good results are based mainly on the trade. “In 2019 our trade turnover exceeded EUR 1 billion, but in the last year, marked by coronavirus, the trade turnover slumped to EUR 870 million in the first 10 months. We have to step it up,” Serbian Foreign Minister said.  

President Radev and Nikola Selakovic shared the opinion that opening of more border checkpoints between Bulgaria and Serbia would contribute to further development of economic, social and cultural relations between the two countries and would give a strong impetus for tourism.

Rumen Radev affirmed Bulgaria’s support for the European integration of Serbia while Selakovic stressed that his country has no other alternative except EU accession.

In the course of the meeting President Radev assessed highly the commitments of President Vucic taken during the visit to Serbia of the Bulgarian Head of State in June 2018 as well as the actions taken towards the timely solution of problems which the Bulgarian ethnic minority in Serbia faces, such as financing more Bulgarian-language media outlets, development of regions inhabited by our compatriots in Serbia, etc.

On her part, Vice President Yotova expressed hope that the issues pertaining to education in Bulgarian language will be also resolved on time.    

 

 

 

PM Borissov LIVE: Compromise Will Be Made Only to Education
Prime Minister Borissov explained that the only compromise that can be made with health is related only to education.
 
The prime minister affected the new strain, saying the risk is high. He added that the situation will be monitored until January 31. "The optimism in all of us was very sharply refuted by the doctors. Despite the full lockdown in the UK for months, the number of infected and dead continues to rise," Borissov added. He said the problem would be if the easing of measures for students, fitness and sports led to a higher number of new cases.
 
"Nurseries, kindergartens and students up to 4th grade did not increase the incidence. God forbid, so be it with the other students ", the Prime Minister reported. Borissov commented that the extension of the measures after January 31 means that nearly BGN 100 million more should be given to non-operating businesses. "This is how we save jobs and help families, but GDP does not increase," he said.
Biden Reverses Course, US Rejoins Paris Climate Agreement

US President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders to launch his administration Wednesday, including a decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord and a mask mandate for all federal buildings.

The orders included keeping the United States in the World Health Organization, ending the ban on entries from mostly Muslim-majority countries, bolstering environmental protections and strengthening the fight against Covid-19.

Also among the directives was a halt to construction of the wall on the US-Mexico border, and efforts to expand diversity and equality for minority groups in the federal government.

The orders were aimed at reversing decisions by his predecessor Donald Trump and setting a clear policy path for Biden's new administration, just hours after he was sworn in as president.

"Some of things we are going to be doing are going to be bold," he said in the Oval Office.

"We are going to combat climate change in a way we have not done so far," Biden said of returning to the Paris agreement, a treaty signed by most nations in 2016 to limit global warming.

He said his actions on the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed 400,000 American lives, would help change the course of the crisis.

His return to the Paris Agreement, which the United States joined Barack Obama was president and Biden vice president, was lauded by other leaders.

"Welcome back," said French President Emmanuel Macron.

"We are together. We will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also welcomed the move, saying it was a large step for the leading producers of global carbon pollution.

"But there is a very long way to go," he said in a statement.

"We look forward to the leadership of United States in accelerating global efforts towards net zero" emissions, he said, calling for "ambitious" new targets for 2030 and expanded climate finance.

Biden's climate czar John Kerry hailed the move as a boon for "America's credibility and commitment — setting a floor, not a ceiling, for our climate leadership."https://www.msn.com

 

A Woman Rescued in the Rila Mountain after 30 Hours at Minus 20 Degrees

A 42-year-old woman from Kyustendil survived after spending more than 30 hours at minus 20 degrees at 2,300 meters above sea level in Rila. 

She was found by mountain rescuers with wedges and ordinary boots, without any equipment for severe winter conditions. She was quickly transported for treatment in "Pirogov" hosptial and accepted with a severe form of frostbite.

 "The woman was not in good condition, the only thing - she was in high spirits, she was aware of what had happened, but from the waist down - her legs were very bad, almost motionless. She had been lying in the open on a rock in the snow for about 20 hours,"said one from the mountain rescuers who managed to find the woman and save her life.

According to the rescuers, the woman did not seek help because she did not want to. She did not call her relatives and friends where she was going and what she was going to do, nor did she call for help.

"Only that the colleagues managed to find her phone number, get on with it and save her, although at first she deceived us, she thought she was in the old hut, but we found her under the wall of the Haramiya."

"At one time, while we shouted, she called, we heard her calling. We had a hard time getting to her, the transportation itself was also difficult, "said a mountain rescuer.

It is also a miracle for us how she survived with the equipment she was wearing. She was wearing urban clothes. The only thing that saved her was that she wasn't asleep, apparently something kept her awake, maybe her faith.

Weather in Bulgaria: Warm and Quiet

Warming trend continues through the week, sunny hours are expected. In many regions it will be almost quiet.

Broken cloudiness - high and medium. Sun will shine over the whole country.
Light to moderate southwestern wind is expected in the eastern regions.
Daytime temperatures will rise above 0 C, and will remain below 0 C at night.
Maximum temperatures are in the range of 6-11C.
The lows will vary between -5 and 0C.

 

Explosion in a Building in Madrid Kills Bulgarian and at Least 3 Other People

An 85-year-old woman and one Bulgarian was among three people killed today as a gas explosion blew apart a seven-storey block in Madrid while a repairman worked on the boiler. 

The top four floors of the building, belonging to the Catholic Church, were obliterated at around 3pm, leaving the centre of the Spanish capital looking like a war zone.  

Speaking at the scene, Madrid Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida said an 85-year-old woman had died along with another man whose age was not immediately clear, while the third victim was still 'under the rubble'.

 A fourth person, believed to be the boiler repairman, remains unaccounted for. 

Another 11 people were injured, one of whom was in serious condition. Church sources said it was a recently-ordained priest.

Despite the force of the blast, no one was hurt in the elderly care home next door, nor in an adjacent school where tonnes of rubble fell into the playground while the children were in lessons, city officials said.  

Meanwhile Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said that 47-year-old Bulgarian citizen was among those killed in the Madrid blast.

Bulgarian embassy in the Spanish capital was informed about the death of the Bulgarian citizen orally on two different channels by the local police. 

The Bulgarian citizen, who died in the powerful explosion in a residential building in the center of Madrid, passed by accident, BNR reports.

Joe Biden Sworn in as US President in Washington

Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president on Wednesday, bringing to an end one of the most unorthodox, turbulent presidencies in U.S. history.

“Today, we celebrate triumph not of a candidate but of a cause: the cause of democracy,” Biden said moments after taking the oath of office. “The people, the will of the people has been heard.”

 “We have learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile,” he added. “And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

In his roughly 25-minute speech, Biden called for national unity and pledged to tackle “with purpose and resolve” the monumental issues plaguing the country, including the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism and climate change.

“We can treat each other with dignity and respect,” Biden said. “We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts led Biden in the oath of office, using a Bible that has been in the president’s family since 1893.

Minutes earlier, Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the court. 

Harris’ vice presidency is historic in several regards: She’s the first female, Black and South Asian person to hold the position.

At 78 years old, Biden is the oldest U.S. president to take the oath of office. He is the 15th vice president to become the country’s chief executive.

“Have a good life,” Trump said during the final moments of his farewell. “We will see you soon.”

Trump is the first president in 152 years to skip his successor’s inauguration. He still has not formally conceded the election, nor has he reached out to Biden to congratulate him on his victory. Trump did, however, leave a letter for Biden in the White House, continuing a long-standing tradition between outgoing and incoming presidents.

Covid-19 in Bulgaria: 8,057 Tests Were Made, 5,7 Percent Are Positive

 

In the past 24 hours, 462 new cases of coronavirus infection have been documented in the country.

8,057 tests were made – 3,676 PCR, 4,381 antigen. Positive are 5.7% of the tests carried out.

As of January 21, there were 29,660 active cases, data from the Single Information Portal show.

During the day, 1,901 people were vaccinated, bringing the total number of Bulgarians vaccinated against COVID-19 to 24,127.

The battle for their lives lost 37 people, 4,600 recovered.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the death toll has been 8,651, the recovered number 175,098.

In hospitals in the country 3,220 patients with COVID-19 are being treated, 327 of them are in intensive care.

The total number of confirmed cases of the SARS-CoV-2 infection in Bulgaria is 213,409, of which 9,339 are medics.

Most of the newly registered cases are in Sofia, Plovdiv and Haskovo.

Statistics of the day by regions: Blagoevgrad - 13 new cases, Burgas - 15, Varna - 24, Veliko Tarnovo - 11, Vidin - 4, Vratsa - 20, Gabrovo - 4, Dobrich - 7, Kardzhali - 5, Kyustendil - 13, Lovech - 4, Montana - 9, Pazardzhik - 27, Pernik - 11, Pleven - 21, Plovdiv - 48, Razgrad - 4, Ruse - 15, Silistra - 9, Sliven - 24, Smolyan - 4, Sofia-grad - 106, Sofia-region - 18, Stara Zagora - 14, Targovishte - 3, Haskovo - 33 , Shumen - 14, Yambol - 2.

10,789 people remain in quarantine.




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