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Hungarian Press Roundup: Dispute over Hungary’s Travel Classification of Foreign Countries

Péter Cseresnyés 2020.07.15.

Two government-critical commentators agree that the newly introduced travel restrictions can be rather confusing, and in the case of some countries even unnecessary, while others are surprisingly lacking. According to the Chief Medical Officer, however, it is possible for the authorities to realistically compare other countries with Hungary, and based on this to safely categorize them.

Background information: The government announced on Sunday that it would introduce travel restrictions due to the worsening pandemic situation around the world. Countries are classified into three (green, yellow, red) categories based on the severity of the novel coronavirus infections in each. From now on, different rules will apply to Hungarian citizens and their relatives than to foreign citizens, should they wish to enter the country.

Index’s Sándor Joób thinks that Hungary’s classification of other countries oftentimes hardly makes sense. In an article, the government-critical commentator writes that strangely enough, some countries are put in the red- most serious- category even though the infection rates are at a bare minimum, while the United States, for example, has been listed in the yellow group – which is currently among the most severely affected countries.

Liberal 444.hu’s Szurovecz Illés also criticized the government for putting countries where the number of active cases has drastically risen in the lighter, yellow category while being a lot stricter in cases where it seems less justified. The commentator lists several instances where the color code given to a country seems rather off. Among the neighboring countries, he mentions Serbia and Romania- both of which have seen an extreme rise in active cases in the past few weeks. Meanwhile, Canada was labeled red, although the curve of the virus shows slowly decreasing numbers.

Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller, however, revealed to pro-government Magyar Nemzet that they consider two factors when classifying countries: the number of active cases, and the moving average of the last two weeks. According to Müller, based on this data, it is possible to realistically compare the severity of the epidemic of a given country with that of Hungary. Furthermore, the authorities re-evaluate the color classification on a weekly basis in light of the most recent data.

Featured photo by György Varga/MTI