March 20, 2020 / 3:05 PM / 10 days ago

Bulgaria to mobilise military to help with coronavirus measures

SOFIA, March 20 (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s parliament voted after a heated debate on Friday to allow the military to help implement measures to curb the coronavirus, with a mandate to use physical force if absolutely necessary.

The armed forces will be mobilized to assist civilian authorities in controlling public movement, with authorization to stop vehicles and persons until police authorities arrive and to use physical force if it is deemed absolutely necessary.

The decision was not taken lightly.

“A virus cannot be beaten with a machine gun,” said Krum Zarkov from the opposition Socialist party - one of the 55 deputies who voted against the deployment of the army.

Zarkov called the measure unjustified, but it passed with 89 votes for, 55 against and two abstentions.

As of Friday, Bulgaria had 129 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and three deaths. It has introduced a state of emergency, closed schools, restaurants and bars and banned all foreign and domestic holiday trips until April 13. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov Editing by Frances Kerry)

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