The Hungarian government has decided to close borders to foreigners starting on September 1, re-introducing the border protection measures in force during the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, told a press conference on Friday.
Starting on September 1, foreign citizens will be barred from entering Hungary, with a few exceptions
Military convoys and business or diplomatic trips can be exempted from the regulations, Gulyás said. He added that the humanitarian corridor for commuters transiting Hungary would remain open. Sports events will be governed by strict regulations, the minister said.
Gulyás said the government had no final scenario concerning the upcoming European Super Cup in Budapest, adding that it cannot be foreseen what the epidemic situation will be in four weeks time.
Hungarians returning from abroad will have to self-quarantine for 14 days, or until they produce two negative tests taken two days apart, he said.
Answering another question, he said that people travelling abroad will continue to meet the cost of a coronavirus test on returning home. “If someone travels abroad voluntarily, the cost of their tests should not be born by taxpayers,” he said.
He said that contacts of coronavirus patients could leave their quarantine if they have two negative tests, adding that the cost of those tests would be reimbursed.
Foreign students will have to produce negative tests to be allowed to study in Hungary, he said.
The measures are designed to ward off infections from abroad, the minister said. Hungary will have to prepare to protect its elderly citizens, children preparing for the start of the academic year and ensure continued economic performance, he said.
Concerning school opening celebrations, Gulyás said that the human resources ministry had not banned but did not recommend such events.
The government was working to ensure conditions that schools are not closed down, but respective authorities will have the right to close a school down if necessary.
Answering a question whether the government was mulling re-introduction of restricted shopping hours for people over 65, Gulyás said that such restrictions were not planned for at least another month. New decisions will be made after the government’s “National Consultation” survey results are evaluated in mid-September, he said.
Further details and preparations will be discussed in a meeting attended by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, as well as the defence and interior ministers, on Saturday morning, he said.
Gulyás noted that the second wave of the pandemic had started in Europe, and the number of infections has also increased in Hungary. He added, however, that the situation was still better in Hungary than elsewhere. He said that the possibility of importing the virus was the greatest danger, but through closing the borders, wearing masks, social distancing and frequent disinfection of hands the virus could be kept under control.
Testing will continue as it has been done so far, along WHO guidelines, Gulyás said. Unlike in the spring, the healthcare system is now prepared to handle the epidemic, with 8,000 beds ready to receive coronavirus patients, he said. Starting September 1, the Hungarian authorities will only accept Hungarian tests, he said.
Concerning his own health, Gulyás said that he had tested negative for coronavirus twice, after which he was allowed to attend Friday’s government meeting. Gulyás had been quarantined since Wednesday, after attending a private event where one participant subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
Regarding the procurement of ventilators, Gulyás noted that the “market was turbulent” during the first wave, with “prices far from usual market prices”. The ventilators are marketable assets, and the Hungarian government would have been remiss in caution had it not bought as many as possible, he said.
Gulyás said that the government has decided to send 50 ventilators to Transcarpathia, and distribute them among local hospitals.
Answering a question on holidays of government members, Gulyás said private holidays are considered private affairs. Hungarian conflict of interest regulations are among the strictest in Europe, he said, adding that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is the only who can give an account of his own holidays.
On the issue of allowing foreign ministry officials to work remotely, Gulyás said Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó had always adhered to the relevant regulations. Public service members have to be ready to work in crisis situations, he said.
Featured photo illustration by Péter Komka/MTI