The government has extended the effect of restrictions introduced with regard to the coronavirus pandemic until April 8, a senior official of the operative board responsible for handling the pandemic told an online press conference on Monday.
Lieutenant Colonel Róbert Kiss said that current rules of mask wearing, as well as curfew regulations, and restrictions concerning restaurants and bars, cultural facilities, shops and schools, would remain unchanged.
The current border control regime along all Schengen borders, and entry restrictions will also be maintained until April 8, Kiss said.
Hungary may hold off from broad reopening measures until half of its population is vaccinated, the minister responsible for healthcare said late on Sunday, flagging the possibility of a longer lockdown as the country grapples with record COVID-19 infections.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who faces an election in 2022, is balancing the world’s highest daily per capita coronavirus death rates, according to Johns Hopkins University, with a need to reopen the economy to avoid a second year of deep recession.
In recent weeks Hungary, with a population of 9.8 million, has lost more than 200 citizens a day and recorded nearly 20,000 deaths overall since the start of the pandemic, according to government data. Details: No words, more than 20,000 people died in Hungary – COVID report
Orbán and his cabinet members have said Hungary would start reopening schools and businesses once inoculations reach a quarter of the population.
Speaking to private broadcaster Hír TV in a late Sunday talk show, Human Resources Minister Miklós Kásler, who is responsible for healthcare and education, said the bar for a broad reopening may be set higher than that.
“Once our vaccination reaches about half of the population, calculating with the spreading speed of the variant first seen in Britain… I think the end of May, the beginning of June is when we can decisively ease restrictions – unless a new variant comes,” Kásler said.
Hungary’s vaccination campaign has reached 1.9 million people with at least a first dose and nearly 700,000 with a second as the country has used Chinese and Russian vaccines alongside Western ones.
Both Hungary’s vaccine imports and its inoculations are the highest per capita in the European Union, according to EU figures.
The government is extending wage support for companies hit the hardest by pandemic restrictions through April, state secretary for employment policy Sándor Bodó said on Monday.
The government offered to cover half of gross wages of businesses that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic as it tightened restrictions and introduced a curfew in November. It also exempted those businesses from payroll tax, effectively subsidising two-thirds of payroll costs.
The subsidies were available first to companies in the tourism and catering sectors, but expanded in March to include companies impacted by the closure of non-essential businesses to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
So far, more than 52 billion forints (EUR 143,2m) in subsidies have gone toward preserving 132,000 jobs.
Companies may apply for the wage support until April 30.