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Closures could remain in effect until Pentecost (May 23), the Hungarian Hotel and Restaurant Association (MSZÉSZ) wrote in an open letter to their members. After causing uproar and making it to the headlines, the government denied the information, saying that it hasn’t yet made any such decision. 

The news burst onto the public on early Tuesday afternoon after some who received the letter came out with the information.

In response to liberal outlet HVG, the Association’s president confirmed that they had indeed so advised their members. Tamás Flesch argued that “based on the current situation, this scenario has the greatest chance. For now, it’s hard to imagine that it would be any different.” He also pointed to the government’s communication on the matter.

Hours after it made it to the news, the government information center (KTK) denied the contents of the letter saying that it hasn’t made any such decision yet and current rules are only in effect until February 1. “It is an unfounded, irresponsible scaremongering rumor that hotels and restaurants in Hungary must remain closed until Pentecost,” the KTK statement writes. It, however, adds that vaccines coming in from Brussels are not enough to launch mass vaccinations, therefore, the government is in talks with China and Russia too.

Pointing to the government’s denial, MSZÉSZ said it withdrew the letter.

Recent statements from politicians, however, indeed suggested that broad-scale openings could only be realized after the mass vaccinations. The government’s tourism agency (MTÜ) also recently announced that tourism could only restart at summer’s end. In reaction to this, last week PMO Head Gergely Gulyás also said that a summer opening is “the realistic, but worst case” scenario.

However, according to liberal news portal 24.hu’s information, the government is now making plans for the “best case scenario” consisting of a reopening as early as March.

In Hungary at the moment, accommodations can only receive business travelers, while restaurants can only offer takeaway. Pubs, nightclubs, gyms, and cinemas are closed, unlike shopping malls. While opinions differ about the government’s mitigating efforts, there is a growing discontent with the restrictions, and similarly to other countries in Europe, a so-far unknown party announced a “mass store opening” campaign by January 25. In addition, another similar event (with an unknown organizer) has also been announced on Facebook, scheduled for February 1.

The coronavirus in Hungary shows a decreasing tendency these days. The number of active infections stands at 108,673. While there are still 4,049 hospitalized patients, 235,276 people have recovered so far.

featured image: a Budapest hotel’s gesture of solidarity towards hospitality and tourism workers suffering the closures; via Lajos Soós/MTI