“You can’t cheat death like you cheat EU institutions”

Only a few days ago, amid an Indian summer, Bulgarians could still enjoy the “life before”. Bars and restaurants were open, nightclubs and shopping centres too; students went to school, employees to their offices. You could travel all over the country, even to most of the European Union, and masks were only compulsory in enclosed spaces.

Compared to other European countries, life was almost good in Bulgaria. Here, in the words of Prime Minister Boïko Borissov, people were not “locked up”, the economy must keep going despite the pandemic, and “mental health” was as important as physical health. 

But the second wave of Covid-19 was already in full swing, with an ever-increasing number of people infected, hospitalised and dead. Overwhelmed hospitals began to sound the alarm, forcing the authorities to decree stricter measures from 27 November.

Now schools, universities, bars and restaurants are closed as well as large shopping centres. But for many it is already too late. In just a few months, Bulgaria – which had set an example of good management during the first wave – became one of the countries with the worst per-capita  figures for Covid-19 deaths. “One cannot cheat with death as one cheats with the European institutions,” wrote the novelist Georgy Gospodinov (author of Physics of Melancholy) in a text sent to the media on 1 December to denounce the inaction of the authorities. “You can’t be first in everything: poverty, corruption, air pollution, road deaths, conspiracy theories, and not be first in this pandemic,” he added. 

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