Covid-19: Bulgarian MPs pass Health Act amendments with anti-epidemic measures

Bulgaria’s Parliament approved on May 12 the second reading of a bill to amend the Health Act, which contained a raft of anti-epidemic measures that will remain in effect as the country eases restrictions after the State of Emergency lapses on May 13.

A major change to the bill, made between the two readings, was that an epidemic state of emergency in the country, or parts of it, can be declared by Cabinet decision, at the request of the Health Minister and based on analysis by the chief state health inspector.

Previously, the amendments gave the power to declare a state of emergency to the Health Minister, at the recommendation of the chief state health inspector.

The bill makes mandatory the isolation and/or medical treatment of people with a number of highly-infectious diseases, including Covid-19.

People who refuse treatment or isolation will be subject to fines of 5000 leva, or about 2560 euro. The same fine applies to people who were in contact with disease carriers who refuse or break quarantine. Mandatory quarantine of people entering Bulgaria also remains in force.

Separately, failure to observe anti-epidemic measures decreed by Health Minister or a district health inspector carries a fine of between 300 leva and 1000 leva, rising to 1000 leva to 2000 leva for a repeat offence.

A number of social and economic measures put in place during the State of Emergency, meant to reduce the economic impact of the Covid-19, will remain in effect after May 13, under the amendments to other laws included in the transitional and final provisions of the bill.

Among the laws amended was the Foreigners Act, allowing a foreign national with a Bulgarian residence permit expiring within three months of the end of the State of Emergency to enter the country without a visa in the first three months after the end of the State of Emergency.

Additionally, foreigners whose long-term residence permits were due to expire in the three months after the end of the State of Emergency would not have their resident status interrupted as long as they filed applications to renew their permits within three months of the State of Emergency being lifted.

Another law being changed was the Excise and Tax Warehouses Act, opposed by Bulgaria’s only oil refinery, Lukoil Neftochim, which warned that it might have to suspend operations.

The amendments would require the company and its fuel retail arm Lukoil Bulgaria to get separate tax warehouse licences for each major fuel storage facility, as opposed to a single licence covering its entire storage network.


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The Sofia Globe staff

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