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Corona in Bulgaria: “The discipline of the population surprised me.”

Assoc. Prof. Maria Endreva is a lecturer in German literature and cultural history at Sofia University in Bulgaria.

Ms Endreva, how has the Corona pandemic changed your daily work?

I am a lecturer in German literature and cultural history in the department of German and Scandinavian studies at Sofia University. We have been in quarantine since March 10th and have switched to online classes, some of them live. I was sceptical at first, especially with regards to my literature seminars in which we actively discuss texts.

It took us a week or two to get used to everything. Above all, I missed the direct contact with students, who initially were speaking up less often than they normally would. But we adjusted quite quickly and now it’s working pretty well. Our students really like this way of learning.

What is the situation in Bulgaria?

Bulgaria declared a state of emergency one month ago, on March 13th, when the first Covid cases were diagnosed. The measures are currently in place until May 13th. Thanks to social isolation, the dynamic and quick implementation and adaptation of measures, and citizens’ active cooperation, Bulgaria is one of the European countries with the fewest Corona infections and deaths.

I am very surprised to see that the population is quite disciplined and well organised, which contradicts the usual stereotypes. But after a month in quarantine, a lot of people are getting tired of it. Because of Bulgaria’s positive statistics compared to international figures, many people don’t see the sense in continuing the measures. They insist that the restrictions be relaxed. But the worst fear is the imminent world economic crisis. Bulgaria already has a lot of unemployment, especially in the tourism and service industries, which are important sectors in the Bulgarian economy.

Everyday life has changed for all of us and we are missing our sports activities and social contact. But we shouldn’t criticise too much. Since a lot of conferences have been cancelled, I view the situation as an unexpected holiday and I am enjoying the extra time with my family.

What are you hoping for?

Many economic sectors are in serious jeopardy because everyone is currently buying only what is absolutely necessary. A positive side effect of the crisis is that the production standstill is improving the air quality in many cities. It’s much cleaner now. This shows the extent of the environmental destruction caused by our daily consumption. So my great hope is that humanity will invent new, more sustainable business models that are geared toward less consumption and more environmental responsibility.

This crisis has revealed that travelling for fun is irresponsible – not just in terms of the environment, which we have known for a long time, but also for people themselves. In the future, perhaps we will find it more worthwhile to visit our parents at the weekend, rather than fly to the other end of the globe to discover something new, just to realise in the end that, once again, we weren’t really thinking of anything but ourselves.

How are you coping?

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April 2020

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