Gyms, theaters, libraries, zoos, hotels, interior spaces of restaurants, and numerous other services have all reopened in Hungary. Most places, however, are only available to those who have immunity cards. But the strict rules differentiating between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people have already generated tension and difficulties in many places across the country.
After the number of people who have received at least the first dose of the vaccine against the Covid-19 virus passed four million, a wide range of services were allowed to reopen on Saturday only for those who have immunity certificates.
According to the new regulation, venue operators are required to check the validity of visitors’ certificates. Should they fail to do so, they can receive fines ranging between HUF 100,000 (EUR 280) and HUF 1 million (EUR 2800), or can even be closed for up to one year.
Even though last week several reports surfaced about accommodation establishments that wouldn’t ask guests for their immunity cards, according to a new government decree published on Friday, these providers can expect even more severe penalties than other venue operators if they don’t comply.
Accommodations that do not ask for their guests’ immunity certificate, or accept people without it, can receive fines ranging from HUF 200,000 (EUR 280) to HUF 3 million (EUR 8,350), or similar to other service providers can even be closed for up to a year. The same applies if employees without an immunity certificate are found not wearing a mask.
The requirement of immunity cards to be able to receive guests while 90% of the employees are not vaccinated, is “ridiculous,” a Sopron Hotel manager told 24.hu.
Many guests without immunity certificates also feel that the plastic cards are unnecessary or even discriminatory.
The Hungarian Hotel and Restaurant Association (MSZÉSZ) recently issued a statement after many of Hungary’s hotels received numerous complaints from people without immunity cards.
MSZÉSZ says that according to the new regulation, accommodation providers are not only authorized but obliged to ask for the immunity certificate upon registration. If the guest refuses to comply, the accommodation must ask them to leave.
The association also asks everyone to respect the rules in order to prevent fines costing up to millions of forints and closures from ruining their businesses.
But it is not only hotels that have received complaints about immunity cards.
One self-service restaurant in Veszprém, for example, decided that those who have immunity certificates are given brown trays and can eat inside, while those who don’t are given white trays and can only eat in the restaurant’s terrace. (Under the current rules, only those with a certificate can visit the inside of catering businesses, while anyone can dine outside).
The restaurant’s Facebook page was soon flooded with thousands of comments, many people finding the decision outrageous, some even accusing the place of ” tray racism.”
The restaurant later tried to clarify the situation in another Facebook post. They wrote that the penalty for violating the new rules is huge and cannot even be appealed, so they can’t do anything other than follow them. Because it is a self-service restaurant, only opening the outside space is not a solution either. Also, they neither want to nor have the necessary resources to check their customers while they are eating.
However, in addition to consumers, several caterers also found the requirement to divide people by card, discriminatory. Since Saturday, many bistros, cafés, and restaurants across the country announced that they would rather not open the inside of their businesses than refuse to serve those without immunity cards.
“Dear Customers! Surely you have heard the news that according to the latest government decree, we can reopen the interior of our confectionery, where our guests with immunity cards can dine. We have decided NOT TO OPEN IT! For us, everyone is equal, we do not discriminate between vaccinated and unvaccinated, guest and guest, human and human!, ” wrote an Eger confectionery on Facebook.
Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI