The Hungarian government has decided to re-introduce the border protection measures in force during the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, told a press conference on Friday.
Due to the development of the coronavirus situation, the government has decided to return to the border protection rules applied during the first wave of the epidemic, Gulyás announced at a press conference held on Friday in Budapest.
As a result, according to the rule of thumb, from 1 September, foreign nationals will not be allowed to enter the territory of Hungary, except in justified circumstances, subject to the observance of the relevant safety regulations.
At the same time, Hungarians returning from abroad will be required to retire to quarantine for 14 days, or until they are able to present two negative tests with forty-eight hours between the two tests, he said, indicating that the majority of infections originate from abroad.
The virus situation poses a threat to the economy, jobs and the start of the school year alike, Mr Gulyás stressed, highlighting that we must all at once guarantee the safety of the elderly who are most at risk, children who are about to start school and the smooth operation of the economy, he stressed.
The Minister said in Europe the second wave of the epidemic has started, and infection rates resemble the end of March and April in many respects. In Hungary, too, the number of infections has risen; however, the country is still doing better than most, he added.
Mr Gulyás highlighted that exceptions are – similar to the previous phase of infections – military convoys and business travel between related undertakings.
Border crossing will be allowed during limited hours, and travel via humanitarian corridors will be guaranteed also in the future, in accordance with the rules in effect earlier.
Specific, stringent rules will apply to sporting events, while diplomatic and official travel will also be allowed. In cases deserving special consideration, the national police chief will have the authority to grant exemption, the Minister explained.
Further details and preparations for the new arrangements will be discussed at the meeting of the border protection task force to be held at 7.00 a.m. on Saturday which will be attended by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, in addition to the Defence Minister and the Interior Minister.
He said they concluded that as the introduction of the virus into the country poses the greatest threat at this time, if the borders are sealed and the relevant regulations are observed in Hungary, including the wearing of face masks, social distancing and thorough hand-washing, we will be able to keep the virus under control.
This is in all our best interests, with special regard to the fact that school is starting on 1 September, and it is to be hoped that the Hungarian economy, too, will be able to continue to function in normal circumstances.
The government also decided to send 50 ventilators to Transcarpathia; as a result, all health care institutions in Transcarpathia will have access to such equipment, he stated.
Regarding himself, Mr Gulyás said after two negative tests – whose cost he himself covered – based on the Chief Medical Officer’s decision, he attended the Friday cabinet meeting. In answer to the question as to whether he was in any way isolated at the cabinet meeting, he said there is no such thing as ‘a dunce’s seat’; before the meeting, the Prime Minister asked him if he was well. Mr Orbán does not give his ministers life coaching advice, he said in answer to the question as to whether the Prime Minister took him to task over attending such a high-attendance event.
He also said they do not keep a record of how many government-party Members of Parliament, ministers or state secretaries have been quarantined. If a minister or state secretary is unable to work, it is only right for them to let members of the public know; this is why he himself did so, he said.
In answer to a question about the start of the school year, the Minister said the Ministry of Human Capacities released a set of recommendations; they do not ban, but likewise do not recommend the organisation of large school year opening ceremonies.
They are working hard to ensure that schools should not be shut down; the cabinet also decided that closures will be possible on the basis of the decisions of the relevant authorities, adopted separately with respect to each institution.
He pointed out that while digital education had passed the test unexpectedly well, it is in everyone’s best interests that schools should operate in the normal mode.
Regarding school trips postponed to the autumn, he said school trips can be organised within Hungary, in each case on the basis of thorough deliberation.
They continue to encourage domestic tourism; they have adopted such stringent measures amounting to a full border closure in order for life to proceed within the normal boundaries within the boundaries of the country, he pointed out.
As to whether the re-introduction of a shopping time slot reserved for those over 65 is on the agenda, he said for the time being it is not; the rules now adopted will remain in effect for a month.
The data of the national consultation will be evaluated by mid-September, and this will allow the government to adopt new decisions, the Minister indicated.
In answer to another question, he confirmed that
from 1 August the government will not pay for the cost of coronavirus tests, and this rule will continue to remain in effect.
If anyone travels abroad out of their own free will, taxpayers should not be required to pay for their tests.
If a person is quarantined due to contact tracing and they are able to present two negative tests with two days between the tests, they can then be released from quarantine. In this case, the state will continue to cover the test costs, he indicated.
It is possible to leave the country; however, very stringent rules will apply to returning home, he laid down.
As regards colour codes, he pointed out that there are two colour codes: Hungary green and all other countries red.
Regarding the hosting of the UEFA Super Cup, he said there is no approved timetable yet; there is no way of knowing what the epidemic situation will be like in four weeks’ time, how many spectators will be allowed to view the match and under what circumstances. UEFA will provide 3,000 tickets to the supporters of the two foreign teams, each. If they are able to organise the match according to the current plans, persons with two negative tests will be allowed to land at the airport. From the airport, they will be taken directly to the stadium, and from there back to the airport. The body temperature of those arriving will also be checked. They are also consulting with UEFA, he explained.
Regarding the fact that, at the same time, Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller does not recommend the organisation of the annual festive book week, Mr Gulyás said it is best to exercise maximum caution.
The Minister confirmed in answer to a further question that this year’s meeting in Kötcse at the beginning of September will be cancelled.