Hungary closes all borders to foreigners over coronavirus

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2020.03.16. 11:36

Speaking in the Hungarian Parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced that Hungary will close its borders to all foreigners, only Hungarian citizens will be allowed to enter the country.

Orbán recounted that the coronavirus pandemic seems to have three stages: local transmission, community transmission, and mass infection. Currently, Hungary is still in the first stage, but moving onto the next one is inevitable. Orbán said that until a vaccine is developed, all states can do is to slow down the spread of the virus. To this end, Viktor Orbán announced that

Hungary closes its borders to all foreigners.

The Prime Minister also announced a number of of other measures:

  • All events in Hungary are banned from midnight on Monday,
  • All entertainment venues, cinemas, cultural institutions will be closed,
  • Restaurants, cafés, and non-essential stores will have to close at 3:00 PM each day, only grocery stores, pharmacies, and drug stores can remain open longer,
  • The government requested everyone above the age of 70 to stay at home and will oblige municipalities to assist their senior citizens who are staying at home.

The Prime Minister said that saving lives is the current priority, but Hungary will have to prepare for the economic ramifications of the pandemic - tourism and hospitality services are already feeling the effects of the coronavirus, but Hungary is looking at a "severe wave of unemployment" in the foreseeable future, and the Hungarian state budget will also have to be redrafted.

Update: Even though numerous officials have repeatedly said that the entry ban would not concern foreigners who are close family members of Hungarian citizens and have residence permits, that exception is missing from the decree. The only exception specifically mentioned by the government decree is about EEA citizens with permanent residence in Hungary (Section 8), who must be "treated equally to Hungarian citizens," meaning they are allowed to enter. For all other cases, the decree authorises the Public Order Director of the Hungarian Police Headquarters to exempt individuals from the entry ban "in cases of exceptional circumstances" (Section 3/A).

The coronavirus situation in Hungary

 Hungary reported the first fatality on Sunday.

Hungary declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, and reintroduced border checks on the Austrian and Slovenian border, banned entry from Italy, Iran, China, and South Korea. The entry ban was extended to Israel on FridayAs of Monday morning, universities and schools are closed, education will continue remotely. All indoor events above 100 people and outdoor events above 500 are banned. Hospitals in Hungary no longer accept visitors since last Sunday, doctors and medical staff are requested not to travel abroad. Last Monday, the government has allocated more than 8 billion Forints (~€24 million) for the coronavirus response. 

During his interview on public radio on Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said "foreigners dragged this disease into the country," and previously, he told European leaders during a teleconference that "there is an obvious link between the coronavirus and illegal immigration." Earlier, the government suspended access to the transit zones on the southern border where asylum-seekers could apply for refugee status.

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 and was treated in Japan. He reportedly recovered, testing negative last Thursday.

Click here to find all our English coverage about the coronavirus situation in Hungary.

(Cover image: György Varga / MTI)

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