Bulgaria to allow schools to teach online as COVID cases surge

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SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian schools will be allowed to switch to online studies, the education ministry said on Monday, as the Balkan country struggles to contain a new surge in coronavirus infections.

Bulgaria, like most of the European Union, is seeing a sharp rise in infections, with the total number of confirmed cases almost doubling to 37,889 since the start of October.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov himself tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

The ministry said school heads in areas with high numbers of infections, like the capital Sofia, could choose to switch to distance learning if they see a rising number of abstentions due either to infections or quarantines.

The ministry recommended switching to online learning first for high schools, saying online studies for primary pupils should be introduced only if absolutely necessary.

Bulgaria has made wearing of face masks obligatory both in indoor and outdoor public spaces and urged people to observe social distancing to prevent an overwhelming of the health system amid soaring infections among medics.

On Sunday, Sofia along with several other cities closed nightclubs for two weeks while hospitals stopped non-urgent operations and started to increase bed capacity for COVID-19 patients.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Nick Macfie)