SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria plans to extend its national emergency by a month to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the government said on Wednesday, as the number of confirmed cases rose to 422.
The Black Sea state's parliament voted unanimously on March 13 to declare a state of emergency until April 13. Тhe government said it would ask parliament to extend that until May 13.
"Bulgaria was making every effort possible to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, but the full extent of the crisis could not yet be assessed," the government said.
"The pressure on the healthcare system can only be reduced by extending the social distancing measures."
Like other countries in Europe, Bulgaria has introduced strict curbs on travel between cities and abroad, closed schools, restaurants and bars and restricted access to parks.
The town of Kozloduy, site of the country’s sole nuclear power plant, and the province of Stara Zagora in southern Bulgaria imposed a night curfew that bars residents and visitors from leaving their homes.
As of Wednesday, Bulgaria has confirmed nine deaths from the illness.
Parliamentary speaker Tsveta Karayancheva told an emergency briefing that all lawmakers were undergoing tests after a member of parliament tested positive on Tuesday.
The 240-member body was scheduled to hold a session on the 2020 budget revision on Thursday, but it was canceled with a new date expected to be announced later this week.
Bulgaria revamped its fiscal plans to run a deficit of 2.9% of economic output this year and raised the ceiling on new debt it can raise to 10 billion levs ($5.6 billion), the government said on Monday.
Menda Stoyanova, head of parliament's budgetary commission, said she was hoping the chamber would convene next week to approve the extension of the emergency and the revised budget.
(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Nick Macfie)