Sofia – as the rest of Bulgaria - is in a state of emergency, which has imposed severe restrictions on movement, introduction of distance work wherever possible, social distancing and disinfection measures. In addition to the national government measure, Sofia also plays a central role in preparing for, mitigating and adapting to the pandemics.
Good preparation and the early response are the key to flattening the pandemic curve. Sofia was able to rapidly take decisive action and prepare its healthcare system. One of the municipal hospitals – the 5th City Hospital, and one department in 2nd city hospital, were determined to specialize in treating COVID-19 patients well before the national hospitals capacity is exceeded, this way preventing potential chaos and the health system from becoming rapidly overwhelmed.
Establishing routine and reliable communication is critical in times of crisis. Sofia established two 24/7 online main communication channels dedicated solely to COVID-19 outbreak and providing news, information, advise, latest ordinances: a sub-website to the municipal site (https://www.sofia.bg/covid-19) and Sofia Municipality Viber Community (https://vb.me/COVID-19_Sofia). Both platforms are created as public-private partnerships. Regular information in English is provided to international communities residing in the city.
Sofia reviewed and duly updated its own services to both keep them functioning and to increase the personal and community protection. New e-services were introduced, including construction permits and full planning permission. Sofia also announced temporary relief measures for retail and corporate customers like free parking, eased-up occupancy practice and municipal rents.
The Mayor of Sofia Ms. Fandakova has called on the capital’s citizens to volunteer time and energy to help citizens at risk – the elderly, people with long-term health condition, socially isolated. Over 100 residents joined as volunteers, serving over 3,000 citizens who need assistance with food deliveries, other shopping, providing medication or a friendly social call. Over 60 local businesses support the volunteer drive donating food and needed products. You can volunteer by phone at 0700 17 310. Citizens who need assistance can request it at: 02/ 81 88 522, while psychological support is provided by professionals at 02/ 42 111 42.
Finally, now is the right time for planning mitigation measures. Sofia set up a temporary economic council to elaborate measures to support businesses in Sofia. Extension and exemption of certain local taxes and bank guarantees for SMEs for up to 50% of the loan provided by the Municipal Guarantee Fund are among the ideas proposed by the council. An analytical report entitled “Assessment of COVID-19 effect on Sofia economy” outlining the three most possible scenarios was published. (https://investsofia.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Potential-Impact-of-Covid-19-on-the-Economy-of-Sofia.pdf)
We will manage together!