Sat, 23 Jan 2021

The global death toll has surpassed 42,000 with over 855,000 infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here's a roundup of developments in RFE/RL's broadcast countries.


All Bulgarian lawmakers will undergo coronavirus tests on April 1 after one member of parliament tested positive for the COVID-19 disease, National Assembly Speaker Tsveta Karayancheva has told an emergency briefing.

The lawmaker who has tested positive is Hasan Ademov, a member of the center-right Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), Karayancheva told the briefing in the parliament building late on March 31.

General Ventsislav Mutafchiiski, the chief of Bulgaria's National Operations Headquarters, said on April 1 that Ademov was in hospital, but did not provide any other details.

The 240-member parliament is scheduled to hold a session on budget updates on April 2. It was not immediately clear if the meeting will go ahead as planned.

On March 31, the Bulgarian government rescinded an order requiring people to wear medical masks in public places to protect against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, just one day after it issued the order.

Health Minister Kiril Ananiev canceled the requirement on March 31 after hundreds of people filed a lawsuit against the order, claiming there are not enough medical masks available for the public.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that the law should not be in place until the government could issue enough masks to the population.

Ananiev said in a statement that he still supported the mandatory use of a face covering "as another means of preventing the spread of the virus."

He added, however, "As I do not have full agreement, I have just signed an order canceling [the order] until consensus is reached in our society.'

On March 30, the Health Ministry had ordered that 'all persons, when in indoor or outdoor public places, are required to have a face mask on."

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The moves come as Bulgaria, along with the rest of the world, struggles to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

As of late March 31, Bulgaria had confirmed nearly 400 cases of coronaviirus infections and eight deaths. However, experts caution that it is impossible to determine the actual number of infections in any country because of the lack of testing.

Bulgaria, the poorest member of the European Union, has closed schools, restaurants, and bars, restricted intercity travel and access to parks, and banned all domestic and foreign holidays and trips until at least April 13 to contain the spread of the outbreak.

Other countries, including Slovakia and the Czech Republic, have ordered the use of masks in public, either at all times or when shopping and conducting other actions.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service, dpa, Reuters, and The Sofia Globe

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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