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Bulgarian Parliament passes special measures under state of emergency

MPs took over 15 hours to complete the debates on the various legislations

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Bulgarian Parliament passes special measures under state of emergency

On Friday, March 20, authorities produced two new sets of rules and regulations regarding the COVID-19 crisis.

Health Minister Kiril Ananiev issued updates to the rules for containing the coronavirus outbreak under the state of emergency. These are in force as of 12:00 AM on March 21 and will stand until an explicit order to lift them is issued.

  • Walks in parks, sports grounds and playgrounds are suspended. People may only walk their pets in the parks but must be careful not to become crowded
  • The Ministry of Interior will establish checkpoints on the entrances of regional centers. Police will check and confirm the reasons for travel are urgent and pressing. People may only travel for work, for health reasons or if returning to a place of residency.
  • People younger than 60 are banned from going to grocery stores and pharmacies between 8:30 AM and 10:30 AM. Only people 60 and over can shop during those times.

Meanwhile MPs debated over 15 hours the new measures they would pass under the state of emergency, which the Parliament invoked on March 13 over the coronavirus crisis.

Here are some of the most important points MPs passed last night.

  • The new legislation authorizes the military to take part in the efforts for containing the spread of COVID-19. The army will be involved in various anti-epidemic activities (like disinfecting cities and borders) but will also have the right to use physical force, and stop the movement of vehicles and people. The legislation reads that the military forces will not be tapped unless it becomes “absolutely necessary”.
  • Health Minister Kiril Ananiev retains the right to issue new orders of restrictions concerning the spread of the COVID-19. Natural persons violating the minister’s orders will be fined 5000 leva, while firms will pay 15’000 leva. Refusal to isolate if you are a contact person of a confirmed case or you are returning from abroad will lead to a 5000 leva-fine as well.
  • Penalty interest rates will not be applied in cases of failure to make the monthly payments on loans on time. Freezing bank accounts of citizens or hospitals will not be allowed during the duration of the state of emergency. Funds, which are already frozen will be released for the time being.
  • Deadlines for the following have been extended: personal ID documents may be renewed six months after their expiry date; tax declarations’ deadlines have been moved from April 30 to June 30. Companies, which owe corporate tax will have until April 15 to submit the declaration for it. The corporate tax will be calculated based on profit predictions for 2020. The previous idea was to calculate the tax based of half the declared profit from 2018, but this was quickly revised. Electric bills’ deadline will also be extended to 20 days (instead of the normal 10). Court proceeding deadlines are all lifted except for penal cases.
  • Parliament also passed an anti-speculation legislation through imposing price limits. Sellers could not increase the price of goods over the average price they had been selling them for the past three months. Data from cash registers and bank transfers will be used to determine the average price. In case a seller has not sold a given good, they could sell at a price no higher than 20% over the amount they paid to acquire the good. The same goes for services.
  • The Council of Ministers will be able to give out money from the EU development funds without the normal competition procedure.
  • Employers will not have the right to impose mandatory unpaid leave on employees. However, they will be able to mandate employees use up to half of their annual paid lease.
  • Releasing false information about the coronavirus outbreak will be punished with up to three years in prison and a fine between 1000 and 10’000 leva.
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