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Coronavirus: Hungary cancels state event on upcoming March 15th national holiday

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2020.03.07. 17:01

The Hungarian government announced on Saturday that the central state commemoration in Budapest on the upcoming national holiday on 15 March is canceled due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus in Hungary. The city of Budapest and the opposition parties also canceled their events.

The move was suggested by the government's coronavirus task force. The Hungarian government's statement reads:

"Even though there are only individual infections in Hungary and there are no hotspots, the commemoration in the National Museum's garden is the largest event in our country with people arriving from all corners of Hungary. For this reason, due to security concerns, the Hungarian government accepts the proposal of the coronavirus task force and decides to cancel the main celebration in the garden of the National Museum."

The March 15th national holiday commemorates the Hungarian revolution of 1848 and the subsequent war ending in 1849 that attempted to achieve independence from Habsburg rule. These days, March 15th tends to be a rather political holiday with party commemorations, protests, and usually a speech by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the central state celebration - this is what was cancelled just now.

Shortly after the government published their statement, the mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony also announced that the city of Budapest follows the suggestions of the coronavirus task force and cancels the Budapest municipal commemoration where the mayor was set to speak. The event planned by opposition parties in Budapest will not take place either.

The coronavirus situation in Hungary

According to the latest update (11:00 AM) of the government coronavirus website,

IN HUNGARY, 5 PEOPLE ARE INFECTED, 48 ARE IN QUARANTINE, AND 319 SAMPLES WERE TAKEN FOR TESTING.

Hungary announced the first two cases in the country on Wednesday, two Iranian university students studying in Budapest and Gödöllő were infected on their (independent) trips to Iran. The first two patients and their partners are in isolation at the Central Hospital of Southern Pest.

Two more confirmed cases were announced on Thursday, one is a 69-year-old British man living in Debrecen who returned from Milan by plane last Friday, the other is the girlfriend of one of the Iranian students.

A fifth case was announced on Saturday morning, a 70-year-old Hungarian man in poor health tested positive.

On  Friday, Hungary suspended issuing Visas to citizens of Iran due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Earlier, the government suspended access  to the transit zones on the southern border where asylum-seekers could apply for a refugee status.

Neighbouring Serbia also announced their first coronavirus case on Friday, according to Serbian Minister of Health Zlatibor Lončar. The 43-year-old man tested positive on Friday morning after returning to Serbia from a visit to his sister in Budapest, who was exhibiting flu-like symptoms. At the Friday press conference of the Hungarian government's coronavirus task force, Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller commented that the visit happened more than two weeks ago, beyond the known incubation period of the virus, so this case should not be cause for alarm according to her.

Also on Thursday, a group of 15 Japanese tourists were taken from their hotel on Kálvin square in Budapest to the Central Hospital of Southern Pest under suspicion of Covid-19. The tourists were all coughing but otherwise showed no symptoms. As Japanese NHK reports, all their tests returned negative, and they were released from the hospital on Friday night. This was confirmed later at the coronavirus task force's press conference on Saturday.

On Friday morning, a Dutch man walked away from isolation in the medical centre of Budapest's district XVIII. The man who speaks Hungarian well complained about a headache and high fever, doctors previously called an ambulance to take him in for testing and placed him in an isolation room, but after waiting for the ambulance for at least an hour, he walked out. Doctors informed the authorities about the patient that was thought to have escaped, but the man just showed up at the hospital on his own early in the afternoon and was examined and quarantined.

Authorities were also retracing the steps of a group of infected tourists who spent several days in Budapest at the end of February before testing positive for the virus days later in Prague. So far, it seems that they visited a ruin pub, a crepe shop, a pharmacy, and the Széchenyi Thermal Bath.

The first Hungarian citizen to contract Covid-19 was a man who worked on the cruise ship Diamond Princess was confirmed to have the disease at the end of February, he is still being treated in Japan.

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