July 6, 2020 / 12:24 PM / a month ago

Bulgaria to tighten coronavirus controls after surge in cases

FILE PHOTO: A worker sprays disinfectant in Serdika metro station, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Sofia, Bulgaria, April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria will clamp down on people who fail to observe obligatory social distancing in public spaces or wear protective masks indoors as new cases of the coronavirus surged, Health Minister Kiril Ananiev said on Monday.

The Balkan country of 7 million people has registered 5,740 cases and 246 deaths. New cases in the past week alone totalled 1,049.

Ananiev said he would extend the state of epidemic emergency in the country until the end of July to allow him to be more flexible and issue special orders if needed.

He urged local authorities to enforce compliance with anti-infection measures and limit large public events. Fines for failing to comply with distancing and other measures would be more strictly imposed.

On Monday, health officials in central city of Veliko Tarnovo said 23 out of 42 people who attended a school prom at the end of June tested positive for the infection.

Ananiev told reporters that 20 players and officials from two top division soccer clubs had tested positive and warned that Bulgaria might ban public attendance at football matches.

Bulgaria has lifted most of the restrictions linked to the coronavirus, opening bars, restaurants and allowing free travel to help the economy recover and does not plan to tighten measures for the time being.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Toby Chopra

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