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At its Wednesday meeting, the government has decided to cancel all public events scheduled for the August 20th national holiday, including the air show and the evening fireworks display, as part of coronavirus protection measures, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Thursday.

Gulyás said at his weekly press conference that festivities which attract a large number of people pose a threat of spreading COVID-19, therefore all August 20th events will be canceled and they will not be replaced this year either.

Gov’t to Decide on Wednesday About August 20th Fireworks

According to the minister, the Chief Medical Officer and the operative board have decided that the restrictive measures should remain in place, which is why the St. Stephen’s Day celebrations are canceled. However, the oath-taking ceremony of graduating officers will still be held, he said.

In June, the government announced that they had allocated almost HUF eight billion (EUR 23.1 million) for “Hungary’s birthday celebrations,” and were planning the “biggest show ever.” This drew both political and civil criticism and several petitions were launched, calling for the money to be spent on social support and on mitigating the effects of the epidemic instead. As of now, no decision has yet been made on what will happen to money that would have been spent on the fireworks, but Gulyás added that they “are glad we can save any amount.” He added that the festivities would have brought in more money to the state than the money spent on them.

Although the decision has been made concerning the August 20th programs, it is still not sure whether the restriction on mass events with more than 500 people will be lifted. Currently, the ban is in force until August 15th and the government will decide on the matter at the end of July.

The major summer festivals, Sziget, Volt, and Balaton Sound have all been canceled, but several big concerts at Puskás Aréna and Papp László Arena have also been postponed. The decision on mass events means that the fate of dozens of concerts and smaller, domestic festivals organized around the end of summer will also be decided at the end of July.

A lot of music festivals are organized for the last week of August (B. My Lake, Strand, Fishing On Orfű, EFOTT, Veszprém Street Music Festival, SZIN, Colorado), and the government’s decision puts the organizers in an even worse position, as they will only have two weeks left to adjust to the government’s decision. If the government decides it will not lift the restriction, it will impose an astonishing burden on events that have been postponed to later dates due to the epidemic.

Last week, Minister of Innovation and Technology László Palkovics said in an interview that there is a great chance that further relaxation of the restrictions cannot be expected to prevent a possible second wave. Gergely Gulyás also shared this view today, saying there are several arguments why restrictions should not be relaxed at the end of July either. He added that if the virus situation does not change by the end of August, the government can introduce a support program for the Hungarian music industry and the government is open to helping the sector because of the losses it has suffered.

As Concerts May Continue to be Banned, Musicians Worry About Industry’s Fate

Answering claims that the government applied double standards on mass events because large scale football matches can be organized, while concerts cannot, Gulyás said that there is a big difference between a football match and a musical event: alcohol consumption. The head of the PMO explained the decision saying that while consuming alcohol, people are less likely to keep the safe social distance from each other at events, which is not the same at matches. The minister added that alcohol consumption is prohibited in stadiums and they have organized matches for a month now without a significant rise in the number of infections.

With the restrictions, a number of international concerts were also affected at Papp László Budapest Arena: Harry Styles, Nick Cave, Korn, and Judas Priest will all come back at a later date in 2021, and the Celine Dion and Pearl Jam concerts are also postponed for a new date. But the System of a Down, Aerosmith, and Kiss concerts were also scheduled to be held during the period when mass events were canceled.

featured photo: Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI