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Hungary’s Sudden Reopening Brings Life Back Into Stores

Tamás Vaski 2021.04.08.

The first phase of Hungary’s reopening stepped into action on Wednesday, after Hungary reached the Orbán government’s goal of inoculating at least 2.5 million people with the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine. Stores can now be open if they respect Covid protocols and the new curfew, which now allows people to be outside from 5 in the morning until 10 in the evening. Although healthcare experts do not agree with the decision, there are measures in place to ensure that the spread of the coronavirus is kept under control.

This reopening eliminates the restrictions put in place on March 8, and allows people to shop at any kind of store. Hair dressers and other services involving personal appearance are also allowed to re-open.

Vaccination Goal Reached, Hungary Begins Reopening
Vaccination Goal Reached, Hungary Begins Reopening

The number of people vaccinated with the first jab has reached 2.5 million, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has announced, indicating that Hungary will begin reopening on Wednesday. Among the first measures will be the shortening of the current curfew and the reopening of shops and services. Viktor Orbán previously designated this number as the requirement […]Continue reading

Dining in is still not allowed in pubs and restaurants, and customers can only enter to order and pick up food. All stores must be closed by 9:30 pm.

New Social Distancing Rules for Stores

Social distancing measures have been put in place as well. If the size of a store does not exceed 10 square meters, only one individual customer can enter. One more customer can enter for every 10 square meters of the store’s size. This rule is meant for individual stores, not for malls. Children under the age of 14 are not counted into the social distancing measures, as well as caretakers of people over the age of 65 and caretakers for people with a disability.

Stores are required to indicate up front how many customers they can allow inside. At markets where stores provide service directly from the counter, the entire market’s size is considered. In these cases, only social distancing must be followed so that people do not crowd in front of the counter.

Photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI

It is up to stores to ensure that these rules are maintained. Some may require people to wait at the door, and some may only allow one customer in for every cash register. Larger stores can count the number of people leaving and entering, or only placing as many shopping baskets as there are customers allowed.

Now that shops can remain open longer, it is less likely that there will be such crowds as there have been with the 7pm closing hour up until now. Masks are still required to be worn.

Longer Store Hours Reduce Risk of Covid Exposure

György Vámos, head secretary of the National Trade Association (OKSZ), said that store owners knew ahead of time that stores knew about the 2.5 million threshold rule, and that most had prepared for a reopening around this time.

Vámos said certain companies may have difficulties with their workforces, since right after the announcement on Tuesday, constant telephone calls began between employers and employees. Many stores have kept their employees on vacation, and had difficulty figuring out how they would ensure a reopening on Wednesday.

Opposition Accuses PM Orbán of Endangering Lives After Reopening Announcement
Opposition Accuses PM Orbán of Endangering Lives After Reopening Announcement

It was recently reported that since the number of people vaccinated with the first jab has reached 2.5 million, Hungary can begin its reopening as of Wednesday. PM Viktor Orbán announced that among the first measures, the curfew will be shortened and shops and services will be able to reopen. While pro-government politicians welcomed the […]Continue reading

According to Vámos, it is logical to control the number of customers based on the size of the store. He emphasized that even outside of stores it is important for customers to wait in line at a distance of 1.5 meters from one another. Consumer protection authorities, the notary, and the police are responsible for ensuring that everyone follows the rules put in place.

The OKSZ head secretary said that longer store hours help protect people against the epidemic, since they allow for a broader range of shopping time and stop stores from getting crowded.

Sudden Reopening Keeping Stores Busy

The reopening has come as a surprise for many stores, but they are not complaining. Larger chains require a bit more time to prepare, while small businesses may find it much easier to open their doors. Hairdressers are extremely busy.

One hairdresser told Telex that 14 customers called an hour after the prime minister’s announcement on Tuesday, and that despite not being vaccinated, they will reopen. Another said that the situation is highly chaotic since customers have been calling nonstop wanting to schedule haircuts.

Photo: János Vajda/MTI

IKEA has chosen to remain closed until April, announcing that it is preparing its stores for the safest possible reopening. Meanwhile Möbelix has announced that it is open for business with new shopping hours.

Tesco is adding stricter social distancing rules to the ones already in place, only allowing one customer in for every 15 square meters of the building. CEO Zsolt Pálinkás told weekly Világgazdaság that it is more likely that fewer people will enter the grocery store, but will remain for a longer period of time.

Is Hungary Ready to Start Reopening?
Is Hungary Ready to Start Reopening?

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced on Tuesday that Hungary has reached its goal for the first stage of the gradual reopening, which began on Wednesday. Comparing the coronavirus-related statistics at the time the government decided to introduce strict lockdown measures to curb the pandemic in March with the ones on the first day of the […]Continue reading

“I am happy that business is moving along, but I am not calm,” one store clerk on Váci Street told hvg.hu. They said that they have been able to effectively control the number of customers entering, as they are a smaller store and can notice if they exceed the limit.

Westend completely reopened on Wednesday, ensuring peoples’ safety through sanitization, more staff watching the number of people entering, and limiting the number of customers who can enter.

They have stated that once the government allows for restaurants to open outdoors, Westend will open up terraces allowing people to eat outside.

The shopping mall is even using its food court as a workplace for people who want to take a break from working at home. Details can be found on Westend’s website.

Many of Hungary's Restaurants May Not Be Able to Reopen
Many of Hungary's Restaurants May Not Be Able to Reopen

With coronavirus projections showing a plateau in cases within the coming months and summer on the horizon, the reopening of Hungary’s restaurants has returned to people’s attention. Unfortunately, many of these businesses did not receive the support they would have needed, and a number of them are unlikely to make it out of the pandemic. […]Continue reading

Despite not being allowed to have customers, catering businesses are apparently setting up for an outdoor reopening. According to hvg.hu, one restaurant downtown is already preparing its terrace for customers.

Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI