On Monday and Tuesday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced a series of restrictive measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Many consider it to be the most stringent package of measures to date – however, some of the restrictions made during the first wave in the spring were more restrictive or had a greater impact on society in some respects, while a series of current measures are indeed more stringent. We have compared the measures of the two waves to see if the government is acting more strictly with the current, much worse epidemiological figures. Analysis.
At first, the new restrictions appear to be stricter than the ones announced in the spring. Back then, for example, there was no night curfew, but there were strict restrictions on movement during the whole day; masks were mandatory in fewer places, while at first restaurants were not closed, hotel operation and family events were not regulated separately, and indoor individual sports were not prohibited.
Meanwhile, the opening hours of the shops are now less limited, online education was only ordered for those over 14 years of age, and funerals are allowed for up to 50 people. Therefore, it is not entirely clear whether the restrictions are now as strict as would be expected based on the epidemiological figures.
At the time of Monday’s announcement, for example, the number of new infections increased by 5,162 and the virus caused the deaths of 55 people. When Viktor Orbán announced that schools would switch to online learning in the spring, there were no fatalities, while at the time of the announcement of the first seriously restrictive measures on March 16th, there was only one death.
While the current restrictions include a curfew between 8 pm and 5 am and people can only be on the street for work, commuting to and from work, or other exceptional reasons, strict restrictions on movement were introduced in the spring but no curfew. This did not apply only to a certain time of day, but from March 28 – April 11. However, the range of exceptions was much wider; for example, it was possible to go to the hairdresser but it was forbidden to just sit in a park.
While in the spring masks were only mandatory in shops, markets, pharmacies, and on public transportation, now it is also mandatory at bus stops, stations, most indoor locations, and in cities with more than 10,000 people in certain public areas. The punishment is also much harsher, with police and the military monitoring compliance and even penalizing places where guests do not follow the rules.
The current rules prohibit all gatherings, while in the spring they first canceled ceremonies on March 15th and then on March 16th the government issued a decree prohibiting people to be at the venues of gatherings.
Meanwhile, a general ban on events came into effect on Wednesday, banning all forms of leisure and cultural events and visits to cultural institutions, even outdoor ones. However, with the exception of weddings and funerals, it is up to the religious denominations to decide whether to hold their religious ceremonies. In the spring, the restriction extended to leisure events as well as visits to cultural institutions, but churches were an exception. However, most religious communities have suspended live ceremonies to protect the health of followers, with most broadcasting ceremonies online.
Currently, up to 50 people can attend a funeral at a time, and a wedding can be attended by people needed for the ceremony: best men, parents, and siblings. With this, the spring rules seem a bit stricter, as back then weddings could be held in a “close family circle,” and in early April, the funeral association asked for funerals to be held with up to 10 mourners.
From this week on, restaurants are completely closed, only home delivery is possible. However, factory canteens may be open. In the spring, restaurants could only be open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. at first, and then only those waiting for their takeaway could be in the establishments.
Currently, shops, hairdressers, and small craft service providers must close at 7 p.m. In the spring, like restaurants, they could be open between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m., but there were exceptions, such as in stores and supermarkets where a shopping time zone was introduced for people over the age of 65 between 9 and 12 in the morning. Now there is no shopping time zone for the elderly. However, as a result of the restrictions, small service providers have suspended their services in many places.
Hotels are only allowed to receive guests for business or educational purposes according to the restrictions announced on Monday, but not tourists. There was no specific measure for hotels in the spring, although a large number of accommodations (including Airbnbs) closed or sought alternative solutions due to entry bans at the borders and curfews. In many places, hotel rooms and Airbnbs have been rented out as apartments.
Sporting events are currently held behind closed gates, but will continue. Closed gate matches were also ordered in the spring; however, organizers of the sports tournaments preferred to stop the competitions immediately. The UEFA Cups, including the European Championship qualifiers, the Champions League, and the Europa League, have also stopped.
Currently, from the ninth grade onwards, all high school students and university students have been assigned a digital curriculum, and dormitories have also been closed, and are only available to special case students such as foreign students. Students younger than them, as well as kindergartens and nurseries, will continue to be open, and the teachers, as well as the staff of the kindergartens and nurseries will be tested weekly. The school closure was stricter in the spring: everything was closed from primary schools to universities, they switched to digital education everywhere, and dormitories were also shut down. The opening of the kindergartens and nurseries could be decided by local governments- in Budapest for example, they were closed.
The current measures, although seeming to be more stringent, do not appear to be as strict in comparison as in the spring if we are looking at the statistics of the spread of the epidemic. However, the government is determined to avoid shutting down the economy completely, as in the spring for example, several car manufacturing factories shut down as a result of closed borders and the resulting disruption in the supply chain. Ikea has also closed all its domestic stores, not to mention the foreign tourism. Viktor Orbán announced in early September, before the start of the second wave, that the country could not shut down, “Hungary must function,”and persisted for weeks despite deteriorating epidemiological data.
featured photo: police officers check the compliance with the restrictions in Budapest during the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic, back in the Spring (Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI)