The Chinese coronavirus is spreading around the world, and with the rising number of confirmed cases in Italy and the appearance of the disease in Croatia and Austria, the epidemic has now nearly reached Hungary. Although there are no cases in Hungary, an increase in checkpoints have been introduced at both Budapest and Debrecen airports, and some of the border crossings are also equipped with non-contact body thermometers, mainly for Chinese citizens traveling in groups.
Due to the spread of the virus, the possibility of suspending the Schengen system which provides unlimited travel, has been debated in many places. It is argued that border controls would be effective in limiting or even stopping the spread of the virus; however, the European Commission has not been persuaded to suspend free border crossing, and so far, countries have only introduced increased controls individually.
Budapest Airport has been screening all passengers arriving directly from China at the airport since January 31st, before they can enter the country. Starting February 23rd, the airport crew also checks those travelers arriving from Italy, given the spread of the coronavirus there. The first two such flights were from Treviso and Bergamo, and no passengers showed high body temperatures or other symptoms of the disease. Meanwhile, increased precautions have also been taken at Debrecen Airport.
There are two methods for monitoring body temperature at the airports: thermal imaging and manual, non-contact thermometers. For this purpose, Budapest Airport has acquired a thermal imaging camera and will soon rent a second one.
The airport released a statement saying they have a significant stock worth HUF 100 million of necessary protective equipment (protective clothing, gloves, masks, shoe protectors) and the materials and equipment necessary for disinfection, as well as adequate isolation facilities.
In case of someone’s body temperature exceeding the normal limit, in suspicious cases, passengers are escorted to the airport’s emergency room, and then transported by ambulance to a dedicated department of a specialized hospital where they are subjected to laboratory tests. Meanwhile, the airport’s emergency service will disinfect the aircraft and the premises.
At Budapest Airport, a health service contracted with the facility carries out the inspections. The staff maintains constant contact with the National Public Health Center (NNC) and will immediately introduce emergency precautions at the airport if required.
Budapest Airport is also providing passengers with flyers and information boards throughout the airport, informing them of the most important hygiene rules and what to do if they feel sick while traveling.
Previously, three airlines operated flights from China to Budapest, two of which suspended flights until the end of March. For the time being, Air China has only reduced the frequency of its flights and will only launch one flight weekly from March 4th.
Control of vehicular border crossings
Due to the appearance of the disease in Italy, Croatia, and Austria, cross-border passengers, especially those arriving by bus in groups and mainly Chinese citizens, are also subject to increased control measures at border crossings. Here, the border guards carry out the primary inspection with a non-contact body thermometer together with a member of the National Ambulance Service (OMSZ). If it is necessary, the passenger is escorted to an isolation room. Further examinations are carried out by OMSZ staff and in suspicious cases, the person is taken to a medical institution prepared to receive coronavirus patients.
Kristóf Gál, the spokesman for the National Police Headquarters, said earlier that the police would provide protective equipment at all border crossings in the country, such as disposable gloves and face masks, hand sanitizer, and increased police hygiene rules for police officers on duty.
Does fever measurement show coronavirus?
As an article of Hungarian news portal index.hu reveals, body temperature measurements can be deceptive. Just because someone does not show a body temperature above the limit, it does not necessarily mean that they are not infected. The first Hungarian coronavirus case, one of the staff members of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, is perfect proof of this, as the patient has not shown any symptoms of the virus (fever or cough), however, they tested positive for the disease.
Additionally, because non-contact thermometers measure the temperature of the skin surface, keeping them slightly closer or away from the forehead during the examination may cause inaccurate results. Likewise, inappropriate environments can affect measurement, and there are some who use painkillers and antipyretics to suppress their fever. In addition, the coronavirus also has a long latency. The most widely accepted view is 14 days, but some people are saying 27 days.
featured photo: MTI/Czeglédi Zsolt