The latest example of public unrest triggered by new government-imposed restrictions unfolded Wednesday in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, as thousands of protesters gathered in front of the Parliament building to demand that the government walk back new COVID-related restrictions.
During the demonstration, protesters reportedly tried to storm the the Bulgarian parliament building. They insisted that lawmakers abandon a "mandatory" health pass. Protesters, many of whom traveled via bus for the rally, pushed back a police cordon around Parliament until they reached the front doors of the building.
Footage of the rally circulated on Twitter:
Bulgaria today, anti-mandate protestors vs the police.— Aaron Ginn (@aginnt) January 12, 2022
Hello to the new normal.pic.twitter.com/UYyR9Sqfvq
The crowd stopped just short of breaking in before demanding that lawmakers come outside to hear their demands while waving national flags (as well as flags of the ultra-nationalist Revival party
"I do not approve of the green certificates. I do not approve that the children are being stopped from attending classes. I do not see the logic of these things,” 39-year old engineer Asparuh Mitov told Reuters at the start of the rally.
Bulgarians have to wear masks indoors and on public transport and show a health pass, given to people who are vaccinated, recovered or who have tested negative for the virus, to get into restaurants, cafes and shopping malls and gyms. The pass is similar to the "green" pass being used in nearby Italy.
As the least vaccinated country in the EU, Bulgaria reported a record number of new infections on Wednesday, a surge that scientists said was partly due to omicron. The country reported more than 7K new confirmed cases over the 24 hours to Wednesday.
Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who took office last month and pledged to increase the rate vaccinations, told a local TV channel that he regretted he could not meet with the protesters, but was ready to do so on Friday, when he will be finished quarantining after a recent COVID exposure. Petkov, President Rumen Radev and senior ministers went into self-isolation after a participant at a security meeting they attended on Monday tested positive for the coronavirus.