Bulgaria’s leaders self-isolate after speaker COVID-positive

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgaria’s top leaders are self-isolating after being in contact with the parliamentary speaker who tested positive for the coronavirus, the country’s chief health inspector said Tuesday.

Speaker Nikola Minchev felt unwell and later tested positive for COVID-19, the parliament’s press office said.

Minchev was present at a six-hour meeting of the country’s National Security Council on Monday, chaired by President Rumen Radev and attended by Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, several key ministers and the heads of the security and intelligence services, as well as leaders of the parties represented in parliament.

“All participants are considered contacts and have to undergo a mandatory quarantine, the length of which will depend on their vaccination status,” chief health inspector Angel Kunchev said.

The Balkan country of 6.5 million people has reported a total of 787,178 cases, including 31,672 fatalities, since the pandemic was declared in March 2020. Health authorities are warning that the infections surge fueled by the omicron variant could put a strain on hospitals.

On Tuesday, authorities reported 6,761 confirmed new cases of coronavirus and 116 deaths over the previous 24 hours.

Bulgaria is the least vaccinated country in the 27-member EU, with only a third of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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