For the first time in Bulgaria’s modern history, a State of Emergency has been voted into effect.
The vote was approved unanimously by Parliament on March 13, at the proposal of the government, to enable augmented responses to Covid-19 new coronavirus. The State of Emergency will be in effect until April 13. An extension will require a further vote by the National Assembly.
It is expected that the measures will include a one-year sentence of imprisonment for those who break their quarantine.
Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev told a briefing after the vote in the National Assembly that the intention was to untie the hands of state institutions so that they could take steps not currently implemented, including a fast-track procedure between officials, the government and parliamentary committees to get legislation passed urgently.
How a State of Emergency works in Bulgaria is governed by provisions in the constitution, the Disaster Protection Act and the Defence Act.
Under the Defence Act, a State of Emergency entitles the state authorities and the armed forces to restrict or prohibit civilian flights, impose restrictions and special rules regarding shipping, and restrictions on crossing Bulgaria’s borders.
It is expected that bans may be imposed on people travelling from certain countries may be barred from entering Bulgaria, and that Bulgarians may be banned from travel to certain countries.
The authorities also are entitled to restrict movements on major thoroughfares, the movement of trains and impose controls on the movement of passengers and goods.
Access to government agencies may be restricted.
Some laws may be suspended. If this happens, a public announcement is required.
In spite of the state of emergency, some constitutional rights are untouched and remain in effect.
These include the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture, to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or to forced assimilation, the right not to be subjected to medical, scientific or other experiments without his or her voluntary written consent.
Criminal liability remains in force. No one shall be compelled to plead guilty or be convicted solely on the basis of his / her confession. Everyone has the right to defence against unlawful interference with his private and family life and against encroachment on his honour, dignity and reputation. Freedom of thought cannot be restricted.
The measures in the current situation are expected to include conferring on the government the power to decree closures of public places such as theatres, concert halls and discos, as well as schools and universities.