1. State of Emergency
On 13 March 2020 the Bulgarian Parliament declared a state of emergency for one month empowering the government to impose swift measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis in the country bypassing certain standard coordination procedures. The measures are to be revised and expanded further upon discretion of the government.
The Parliament is urgently discussing a bill on the state of emergency measures. It incorporates the measures for social distancing announced by the Minister of Health on 13 March (outlined below) and provides also for the following:
1) Courts, notaries and enforcement
All terms in the pending court, arbitration, administrative and enforcement proceeding – except for criminal court proceedings, shall be suspended for the duration of the state of emergency.
Enforcement proceedings such as public sales or repossession shall be terminated; when the state of emergency is revoked, they are to be initiated and announced a new.
Injunction on bank accounts of individuals, on salaries and pensions, as well as other enforcement measures shall be suspended for the duration of the state of emergency.
Notary certifications are to be limited to urgent matters; the Notary Chamber is to designate at least one notary on duty per region.
2) Social and Economic Measures
Waiver of certain requirements and electronic filing to facilitate payment of social aid and financing of companies and entrepreneurs with available EU funds is envisaged in the bill.
Employers are allowed for the duration of the state of emergency to:
• to suspend their operations, entirely or in part, upon discretion of the employer – in that case the state share the costs with the employer by providing the employees impacted by this suspension with compensation of 50% of their respective salary (but in any case, not less than 75% of the minimum wage i.e. approx. EUR 225).
• impose paid and/or unpaid leave as well as home office or working hours modification on the employees.
3) Personal Documents
The validity of personal documents of Bulgarian and EU citizens and foreigner (e.g. identity cards, resident permits, drivers’ licenses), which are to expire between 1 January and 31 October 2020, is extended with 6 months.
The target date for final approval of the bill is 20 March 2020 whereby it shall become effective as of the date of publication in the State Gazette.
2. Authorities in charge of COVID-19 crisis
The National Operation Headquarters set up on 26 February 2020 is in charge of coordination of the measures against COVID-19. It monitors the development of the COVID-19 contamination, provides official updates on the number of cases detected and recommends appropriate measures to the government. The Ministry of Health overseeing all sanitary measures and restrictions related to social distancing and travel restrictions. Municipalities act on local level according to the impact on the local community.
3. Prevention Measures
3.1. Social Distancing
On 13 March 2020 a few hours after the state of emergency is declared, the Minister of Health announced the following measures effective immediately until 29 March 2020:
1. Restaurants, bars, cafes, entertainment and commercial establishments, are closed; malls are allowed to stay open to allow access to the food stores, pharmacies, bank and insurance offices located in the malls; Restaurants and fast-food joints can deliver food or sell food orders to-go; All other commercial activities are to continue to operate as usual;
2. Kindergartens, schools and universities are closed as well as all events that require gathering of children and adolescents.
3. Sport events, concerts, performances as well as ay other form of public gatherings are cancelled.
4. Employers are required to either arrange for their employees to work from home office or introduced strict sanitary measures at the workplace to avoid contamination.
5. Non-urgent medical services such as planned operations, prophylactic examinations and immunizations, as well as visits in hospitals are suspended.
3.2. Travel Restrictions
As of 18 March 2020, people from 16 countries would not be allowed to enter Bulgaria; the countries include France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, as well as China, Iran, India and several other countries in Asia.
Bulgarian citizens and foreigners with permanent residence in Bulgaria and their family members are excluded from the restriction. However, upon their arrival, they shall be quarantined for 14 days.
3.3. Quarantine
All citizens arriving from countries subject to the aforementioned travel restrictions, are quarantined for 14 days. The same measure applies to family members and people who are known to have had contact with a person tested positive for COVID-19.
The drivers of cargo trucks are exempt from the quarantine to a certain extent – if they are Bulgarian citizens and they are to return to their destination, the quarantine is limited to the days spent in Bulgaria necessary to process the logistics of the delivery; if the drivers are foreign citizens, they are required to limit their stay in Bulgaria to 24 hours.
As of 17 March 2020 Bansko, the main ski resort in Bulgaria, is on lock-down for 14 days. All people currently in it are required to stay at home; one person per household is allowed to go out for food or other essential supplies; deliveries are to pass through one checkpoint.
4. Support for Medical Professionals
First responders in the hospitals as well as the medical professionals in the emergency units will receive an additional payment of approx. EUR 500 by the end of March. The Ministry of Health has provided approx. EUR 10 million as the first tranche of aid and currently works on a set of measures to support the municipalities in rendering health and social services.
5. Impact on access to courts, notary and administrative services
Access to courts, notarial and administrative services is restricted to a certain extent.
While many notaries have chosen to close for the duration of the state of emergency, the Notary Chamber has arranged on-duty notaries for each region to ensure processing of urgent certifications and transactions.
The authority in charge of courts have chosen to allow each of them to decide on the timelines and scope of restrictions to be applied; as a result, filing and registration of claims, appeals and other court papers has presented the lawyers with certain challenges.
Suspension of all terms in the pending court, arbitration, administrative and enforcement proceeding – except for criminal court proceedings, for the duration of the state of emergency is being discussed by the Parliament as noted above.
6. Statistics
On 8 March the first cases of the virus were detected in Bulgaria as 4 people tested positive. By 13 March the cases increased to 31, one person died, which prompted the government to move to trigger the state of emergency. By 18 March the authorities registered 92 cases, 11 new cases for the last 24 hours.

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