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Several Hungarian Athletes Test Positive for Coronavirus

Fanni Kaszás 2020.08.17.

On Saturday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó reported on the new quarantine rules for Hungarian athletes who had recently been abroad. In mid-March, several swimmers were infected by the coronavirus, but since then only a few cases have made the news. However, only a day after the easing of quarantine restrictions for Hungarian athletes were announced, several sport clubs have reported that their players tested positive.  

On Saturday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó reported on the new quarantine rules for Hungarian athletes who had recently been abroad on his Facebook page. The new rules also appeared in the Hungarian Gazette on Saturday evening. This week, the qualifiers for the new Champions League season will begin, with Hungarian Ferencváros also involved, while next week the Puskás Academy, Honvéd and MOL Fehérvár FC are going to start their qualifiers in the European League. Because they play abroad, the government has made special rules of entry for the Hungarian athletes. If they are returning from a country marked yellow or red, they must take two COVID-19 tests just like tourists. However, the players only need 24 hours between the two tests and can spend the quarantine at a sports center and even go to training while waiting for their coronavirus test results.

On Sunday, several sport clubs announced that a number of players were infected with the coronavirus. Out of all major Hungarian sports branches, water polo seems to have been affected the most. Previously, the men’s water polo teams from Ferencváros, Eger and Debrecen reported players who tested positive, and now UVSE has joined them well, with three of the team’s players testing positive.

The teams have canceled their training sessions and training camp for this period, and the players will complete their usual land-based training sessions. UVSE last played in the final rounds of the Hungarian Cup on Margaret Island on Wednesday, but the unusual, multi-round summer cup series failed to finish because defending champion FTC-Telekom had four players who tested positive. Therefore, the evening semi-finals as well as the other matches were postponed.

A player at the Újpest ice-hockey team also tested positive, this was identified on Sunday. János Ancsin, director of the division, told state television channel M1 that after consulting with the Hungarian hockey association and the officials of Ferencváros, the FTC-Újpest Super Cup match, which would have taken place on September 4th, will be postponed. For this reason, they will also initiate the postponement of the Erste League, which starts on September 11, by one or two weeks. Ancsin added that they are currently at the end of the provisional preparation process, which they have to start again due to the virus if they wish to resume training. This is expected to happen again on September 3rd or 4th.

A match in the first round of the football NBI will also have to be postponed due to the coronavirus. The Puskás Academy-Honvéd match, originally scheduled for Sunday evening, was canceled, as a case of coronavirus was registered on the Felcsút home team. The club’s website only said they are following all the epidemiological health regulations in dealing with the case. However, according to Hungarian news agency MTI, not only one, but several players of the Felcsút team have tested positive.

A Romanian newspaper also claims that several players tested positive in the Puskás Academy’s team, saying that almost the whole starting squad tested positive. The Romanian Prosport writes that a total of eight players have been infected, including Romanian striker Alexandru Baluta, who was signed in the summer and also got married this past weekend.

The team is scheduled to play against Kisvárda on the 22nd of August in the second round of the NBI, as well as in the first round of the Europa League qualifiers  in Hammarby, Sweden. Citing Swedish journalists, Prosport writes that the postponement of the match has not been discussed yet, but only players with a negative test can play for Puskás Academy.

According to an article published in FINA Aquatics World Magazin by Béla Merkely, Rector of Semmelweis University, the university has bilateral agreements with several Hungarian sports associations, especially in the field of water sports. In mid-March, the comprehensive coronavirus screening of Hungarian athletes was launched under the supervision Merkely: a total of 354 athletes were tested, including swimmers, football players, gymnasts and their team members (coaches, physiotherapists, masseurs), and back then only 12 positive cases were found. Since then, screenings are taking place continuously within sport associations, and it seems that because of the resumption of training and matches abroad, more and more sportsmen are becoming exposed to the infection.

featured photo: Illustration, Puskás Academy players (Tibor Illyés/MTI)

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