Last week, the Hungarian government announced that the country is closing its borders to foreigners starting on September 1st, re-introducing the border protection measures in force during the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic. The government decree, issued by the prime minister, has been published in the official gazette Magyar Közlöny on Sunday with the details of entry ban as well as the exceptions.
The ban, taking effect on September 1st to contain the spread of the coronavirus, was announced on Friday. According to the government decree, foreign citizens will be barred from entering Hungary, with a few exceptions, while Hungarians returning from abroad will have to self-quarantine for 14 days, or until they produce two negative tests taken two days apart. Foreign nationals with permanent Hungarian residency (and their close family members) as well as those who hold a permit of stay for more than 90 days are treated the same way as Hungarian citizens.
Some foreigners can apply for a permit to enter the country through the Hungarian police. Exceptions to the ban are made for foreigners on official business involving state organizations, those certified to receive health care, students with proof of student status, lorry drivers returning home, visitors taking part in family events such as weddings, and participants of international sporting, cultural, or religious events.
The application for a permit to enter the country must be submitted electronically in advance by non-Hungarian citizens, in English or through a legal representative. If a foreign national is suspected of being infected, they cannot enter the country. Otherwise, foreigners whose applications for entry are approved must go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine that may be lifted only after two negative COVID-19 tests taken at least 48 hours apart.
The decree allows for the unrestricted entry by foreign executives or employees of Hungarian companies as well as of foreign companies registered in certain designated countries. A separate decree issued by the interior minister has specified those designated countries to be “any country”. Transit traffic, military convoys, and humanitarian travel are also exempted, as well as official visitors or anyone who can prove that they have recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months.
Foreign athletes coming to attend domestic sports event can enter if they present two negative tests in Hungarian or English from the previous 5 days at least 48 hours apart. However, following UEFA protocol, foreign athletes can also enter with only one test carried out in the last 3 days. A Hungarian athlete returning from abroad will be exempted from quarantine after two tests, 24 hours apart. Until then, they can “travel in the form provided by the sports organization” between their home and the place of sports activities during the official home quarantine. As there is no restriction that this rule only applies to individual athletes, according to the new rules a team athlete who has not yet had a proven negative test may go to training as well.
Foreign commuters residing no more than 30 km from the Hungarian border are allowed entry into the country for periods of no more than 24 hours. Hungarians who travel less than 30 km from the border into neighboring countries and return within a 24-hour period can re-enter Hungary without restrictions.
Foreign travelers in transit are also allowed entry into the country if they can certify their destination and reason for travel. They must remain on designated travel routes and must leave the country within 24 hours. The decree stipulates that Hungarians returning from abroad must also go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine. The quarantine may be lifted only after the individual produces two negative COVID-19 tests taken at least 48 hours apart.
Hungarian citizens or their foreign family members may be required to undergo a medical examination when they return home, and if they are suspected of being infected, they will be quarantined at home or in a hospital. However, contrary to the previous rules, even if they are not suspected of infection, they will still have enter quarantine for 14 days no matter their country of origin. The quarantine requirement will be lifted if two negative tests are carried out 48 hours apart.
However, Minister Gergely Gulyás reminded everyone last week that in this case a test taken from abroad will not be accepted.
The regulation also stipulates that persons coming in contact with an infected individual who have been quarantined by the authorities may be exempted after two negative tests. However, the first test can only be carried out at least four days after contact with the infected person.
featured photo: György Varga/MTI