SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria will extend an epidemic emergency until the end of June to fight the spread of the coronavirus after an increase in new registered cases, mainly in the south, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said on Wednesday.
The Balkan country has eased most of the restrictive measures it imposed in the middle of March, allowing restaurants and shopping malls to reopen and lifting bans on inter-city travel.
It has also lifted an entry ban for citizens from the European Union, but is keeping its borders closed for travellers from other countries, except for neighbouring Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro.
Borissov said the government did not plan to introduce new restrictions for the time being, but appealed to people to keep social distancing and weak protective masks.
“The rise in the coronavirus infections is based on cluster outbreaks, which we are dealing with quickly, without closing the cities, without spiking panic or fear,” Borissov said.
“The most important thing is distance, discipline and disinfection. Life must go on, so go ahead bravely.”
He defended the extension, saying it has been proposed to avoid any escalation in cases that could overwhelm hospitals.
Bulgaria declared a one-month epidemic emergency on May 13 - replacing a previous state of emergency - allowing the health minister to extend the coronavirus restrictions.
Bulgaria, one of the European countries least-affected by the coronavirus, has so far recorded 2,889 cases, of whom 167 have died. Over the past 24 hours it recorded 79 new cases.
Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova and Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Alison Williams and Alex Richardson