Hungary eases restrictions, but cancels summer festivals and keeps schools closed
At the Hungarian government's weekly press conference on Thursday, Minister of the Prime Minister's Office Gergely Gulyás revealed the details of how the coronavirus-related restrictions introduced with the state of emergency and the stay-at-home order will be lifted starting from Midnight on 4 May.
The government decided on Wednesday that they will relax the preventive measures "gradually and in accordance with a strict timetable," and it is important to ensure that those most at risk are still protected, Gulyás said, adding that the geographical distribution of cases was also a factor in the decision.
With the involvement of four medical universities, Hungary is set to start testing on a 17,000-strong representative sample to see how much of the population has contracted COVID-19. Patients going in and out of hospitals and employees of retirement homes will also be tested.
As it was announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Budapest and its agglomeration will be treated differently from the rest of the country due to the high concentration of cases in the area;
the stay-at-home order will remain in effect in Budapest and certain regions of Pest county.
There are also nationwide measures and some that only apply to the countryside, Gulyás announced that the following will go into effect from 4 May:
- The Minister asked senior citizens to still only leave their homes if they absolutely have to.
- Wearing face masks and keeping a 1.5-metre distance will be compulsory on all public transport and in all stores - this was already the case in Budapest, but from Monday, this will apply to all of Hungary.
- Education will still continue remotely at least until the end of May.
- Parking remains free in the entirety of Hungary.
- No events with more than 500 participants allowed until 15 August, which means summer festivals will have to be canceled.
Measures outside Budapest:
- Terraces and gardens of hotels, restaurants can be opened from Monday,
- The restriction on the opening hours of stores will be lifted, but the period for senior citizens (9:00 AM to noon) will be upheld.
- Beaches, open-air baths, zoos, open-air museums will be allowed to open,
- No restrictions will apply to services.
- Training and games behind closed doors will allowed in professional and amateur sports.
- Restrictions will no longer apply to private healthcare.
- Restrictions concerning public healthcare will be rolled back in four steps.
On 3 May, officials are expecting the coronavirus epidemic to hit a local plateau in Hungary - this was first mentioned by Viktor Orbán on 19 April, after which Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller said that this had been the date the coronavirus task force expected the epidemic to peak for a long time, even though just three days earlier, Gergely Gulyás himself said that the virus is to peak in June, though the government wishes "that this projection is wrong and the epidemic will reach the high-point in May."
Earlier, Minister of Innovation and Technology told political daily Magyar Hírlap that this second phase in the game of tightening and relaxing restrictions will happen by way of a "sliding regulation" that balances the healthcare ramifications of the epidemic (especially the occupied hospital capacities) with the state of the economy and the quality of people's lives.
(Cover: Main stage of Sziget Festival in 2018. Photo: Máté Szekeres / Index)
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