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Health Professionals on Hungary’s Covid Restrictions: Too Little, Too Late

Tamás Vaski 2021.11.02.

Health professionals are speaking up about the relatively minor restrictions the government has introduced in relation to Hungary’s Covid situation. Critical of masks only being required on public transit, they argue that focusing so much on vaccination is not wholly sufficient to solve the entire problem that is the pandemic.

Three Covid regulations were announced by Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás on Thursday; the mandatory use of masks on public transport, permission for employers to require their employees to be vaccinated, and a visitation ban in hospitals. While even these measures seem strict, they raise some eyebrows when considering that not only are masks still optional in areas with high potential for infection, but that looking at Hungary’s jump in cases, restrictions could have been introduced much sooner.

Virologist: Logically, Closed Spaces Should Require Masks

Virologist Gábor Kemenesi believes that mandating masks on public transport is a good decision, and understands that it is difficult to decide where to mandate such restrictions effectively. He emphasizes the complicated situation of stores, saying that there is a huge difference, in terms of a danger to the virus, in a large well-ventilated superstore as compared to a small corner store with poor air conditioning.

Kemenesi believes it would be logical, from an epidemic perspective, to require masks in all closed areas, and even then, such restrictions would not lead to a loss of employment or mass shutdowns. The virologist believes this will be the last wave, and that we should do whatever we can to stop its spread.

Why should we not do everything in our power which we can do out of our own free will? With this I am talking to those people, for example, who do not want to get vaccinated even though they could: we are responsible for each other, as well as for the operation of the economy. There are still people who the fourth wave can reach.”

Health expert Kunetz: Gov’t Regulations too Minimal

Zsombor Kunetz made a Facebook post saying that “this will not be enough!” The health expert wants stricter restrictions, including proof of immunity for attending public events.

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Following Thursday’s announcement of the three new measures, Kunetz criticized the optionality of masks in stores and the lack of requiring proof of vaccination or PCR/antigen tests for cultural and sport events or for entry to restaurants. He also believes that FPP2 masks should be made mandatory and provided by the government.

Kunetz called for the mandatory introduction of masks before the November 1 restrictions were brought into effect. He told RTL News back at the end of October that the current situation warranted such actions.

Medical Chamber President: The Vaccine Does Not Solve Everything

Gyula Kincses, President of the Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK), told Mfor.hu that it would have been better to introduce the current regulations sooner, and that it is characteristic of all governments to wait until public opinion pushes them to act, by which point it is already too late.

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Kincses is in favor of all possible measures being employed to fight the virus, going against the government’s recent arguments that social distancing and masks are meaningless.

One form of protection on its own does not provide a sufficient result, so it is not true that the vaccine alone solves everything. It is also not true that masks, social distancing, or personal hygiene on their own can solve the problem. Together, however, these variables can provide an effective response.”

MOK is in favor of employers requiring their employees to be vaccinated, but Kincses also considers it important to require proof of vaccination at public events, cinemas, and theatres. He would also mandate masks in all closed areas, not just on public transport.

Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI