[COVID-19 Special] Interview with H.E. Petko Draganov
1. How are you and your embassy handling this situation?
We are emphasizing respiratory etiquette and hygiene by all staff and placing hand hygiene and alcohol-based sanitizing spray at the entrance to our workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen. Also at the moment, our Embassy is restricting visits from outside and reducing meetings at the Embassy to the necessary minimum. For urgent consular matters, we guide visitors directly to a separate room and use gloves and masks when receiving them.
We regularly have internal staff meetings and also use a social media chat room to exchange current situation and to share alerts and valuable information from the Korean government.
The Embassy provides masks, hand sanitizer, and alcohol-based aerosol sprays to the staff for use in the office and at home and ensure that adequate supplies are maintained.
To minimize contact on public transport, the Korean staff are working flexible hours and from home.
2. How much impact has the Coronavirus outbreak had thus far in your home country?
Bulgaria’s parliament has declared a state of emergency until April 13. Under the emergency rules, schools, universities, and kindergartens will remain closed until March 29 and visits to gyms, cinemas, bars, restaurants, and shops except for supermarkets and pharmacies will be banned. The rapid spread of the coronavirus has plagued the Bulgarian travel and tourism industry.
Bulgaria is following WHO and ECDC guidance on threat mitigation. The Bulgarian government has banned the entry of travelers from the 16 hardest hit countries beginning March 18. Bulgaria has so far reported two fatalities from COVID-19 within its borders. For travelers from Korea, the quarantine period is 14 days.
3. What are the views/ lessons learned from Asia (Public health? Societal? What worked? What didn’t?)
I believe the RoK is demonstrating the best model for action in halting the spread of the corona virus so far: good organization and inter-institutional cooperation paired with full transparency and massive free testing and treatment of all possible cases of infection; innovative approaches like drive-through testing centers and smart phone apps - all done in following the recommendations of the WHO. Worries remain about infections in various social gathering places and the government may need to suspend such gatherings strictly during this difficult period. Also, foreigners living in Korea who do not have the local national health insurance may have difficulties purchasing masks but we expect some solutions will be worked out. It looks like it is going to be a long fight, and the nations of the world need to cooperate more closely in tackling the pandemic.
4. What types of initiatives are you planning to build with Korea when this crisis is over?
This year is the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Bulgaria and Korea. However, due to this virus outbreak we had to postpone the reception for the Bulgarian National Day that was on the 3rd of March. We hope to be able to reschedule a reception and go ahead with the plan to hold an exhibition on the Cyrillic alphabet in May-June, entitled ‘The Letters of Bulgaria –Alphabet of Europe’. Once the situation is stabilized, we are looking forward to organizing various events and programs in cooperation with the Korean government and institutions. These events aim to provide opportunities to further strengthen and enhance our cooperation with Korea.