The Bulgarian Law of Emergency – scary or life-saving?

The law of emergency explained. Is it too restrictive or there are simply no other options on the table. Read the article and decide for yourself.
covid19 in Bulgaria - emergency law

The Emergency Law in the State Gazette

The Bulgarian Emergency Law was published in the State Gazette on March 24th, 2020. Most of its provisions come into force retroactively – on March 13, 2020. Some of the provisions are applied from March 24, 2020.

We will try to briefly introduce you the most important changes that affect directly the largest groups of people and legal entities in Bulgaria. There are some important changes that will have effect on our lives over the next few months.

So, is the Law limiting our human rights or it is protecting our health in the first place? We will leave it to you to decide for yourself.

Bulgarian doctors and nurses

We will start with our dedicated and courageous “warriors” who are fighting the war of life and death – our doctors and nurses. We have the deepest respect for their dedication and ultimate sacrifice.

The law does not contain any specific sections as to how the health care providers will be working during the emergency state. The widely expected (and promised) monthly payroll increase of BGN 1000 is not mentioned explicitly. The Government and the Ministry of Health are responsible for keeping their promise. We will have to see whether this will be enacted. We can only say that during these difficult times, we must fully support the efforts of our medical personnel.

In order to avoid any interruption of the power supply, all medical establishments (ie hospitals) should check their premises to have uninterrupted power supply. This will be done by the state institutions, as well as by the telecommunication operators. The law grants all powers to health inspectors who will make similar inspections nationwide.

New rights and responsibilities for the Bulgarian army

The army already has the same authorities as the police forces in terms of verifying and establishing the people’s identities. The same applies for restricting the movement of the citizens. The army can also detain persons who have violated the quarantine conditions. The army can only use force when it is absolutely necessary.

Measures and restrictions

For non-compliance with the measures and restrictions imposed by the Minister of Health, the fine for individuals is BGN 5000. The fine for sole-traders and legal entities (ie LTD) is BGN 15000.

False alerts and telephone calls

According to the new amendments to the Bulgarian Criminal Code, for false alerts and calls you can be imprisoned for up to 3 years and fined with BGN 1000 to BGN 10000. For false alerts leading to more serious consequences – the imprisonment is up to 5 years and the fine is up to BGN 50000.

Penalties for breach of the quarantine

There are serious penalties foreseen for non-compliance and violation of quarantine. For persons who give a positive test for a coronavirus and do not comply with the quarantine – the fine is set at BGN 50000. The same applies to all persons who have had contacts with the infected person, as well as to those arriving from abroad.

With 50 to 500 BGN will be fined those who refuse to undergo a medical test.

Strict compliance with the mandatory isolation will be monitored by the Ministry of Interior. The police forces may use the data from the mobile operators of the location of persons reported to be in breach of the quarantine. It is not yet clear how and who will decide whether to use this data. Mobile operators have not yet commented on the procedure already voted on.

Important for the businesses

The State of Emergency Act allows business owners to organize their work remotely. Employers are now allowed to place their employees on annual leave without their consent.

Assistance is provided by the NSSI (the Bulgarian social security institute) for businesses that have ceased operations due to the state of emergency. For up to 3 months, the NSSI will take up to 60 percent of the employees’ salaries in order to keep their jobs.

The deadline for filing corporate tax returns is extended to 30 June 2020. The same applies to the income of individuals from taxi services, to income for which a patent tax is due, to loans received, etc.

The annual financial statements, consolidated accounts and annual reports may be submitted by 30 September. Declarations by sole traders – until June 30.

Important for employees

The law gives employers the right to place paid employees on a paid leave. This can be half of the annual leave, or about 10 days. Employers have the right to work from home without the consent of their employees. They are not entitled to refuse paid or unpaid leave for mothers, single fathers or adoptive parents of children up to 12 years of age, pregnant women or those in advanced treatment, workers with reduced working capacity and serious illness.

Individuals’ annual tax returns are filed by April 30th. Those who file the returns by March 31st will be entitled to a discount.

Banks

No freezing of bank accounts of individuals and medical establishments may be imposed until the state of emergency is lifted.

There will be no consequences arising from late payment on the obligations of individuals, including interest and penalties for late payment, as well as non-monetary consequences such as early payment, contract termination and seizure of property.

Judicial institutions

The procedural time limits for judicial, enforcement and arbitration proceedings are suspended. Only the time limits in criminal proceedings remain untouched by the law.

More important deadlines extended

The deadline for paying real estate and vehicle taxes at a discount of 5% is extended to 30 June.

The expiry of the Bulgarian identity cards is also extended until November 30.

The medicines of the chronically ill, written on the health insurance fund and the term of their protocols are extended until the end of the year. This means that pharmacies can only dispense their medicines with a prescription booklet without presenting a prescription. The latest medications listed are taken into account.

The attorneys at VD&A and the law firm Hristo Vasilev

First and foremost: stay safe at home, very healthy and mobilized during these times of hardship. Human life comes first! Staying at home will not only save yourself, but your beloved ones. Follow the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and the services that are fighting the contagion in Bulgaria. This is a battle in which we must all get involved. Only in this way will we be able to “break the spine” of the epidemic, which is trying to take away everything we love and fight for.

In view of the global pandemic and the current situation, all VD&A attorneys and associates will continue to provide legal assistance and advice, with preference on providing services online.

For legal assistance and assistance you can write to us at the following emails:

p.petrova@bglaw.eu

n.minkova@bglaw.eu

You can also call us at the following numbers:

+359 884127525

+359 899812996

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