The government recently announced their reopening plans which will enter into effect when the number of Hungarians vaccinated against Covid-19 reaches four million. According to these new rules, people who are inoculated will receive a vaccination certificate which will allow them to use indoor areas of catering, visit zoos, museums, theaters and cinemas, go to gyms and swimming pools, as well as attend sports events. However, it turns out that those who receive a jab abroad will not be eligible for vaccination certificates in Hungary.
The government commenced issuing vaccination certificates in early March. This certificate can be given to those who can prove that they have caught Covid-19 (in this case the card is valid for 4-6 months from the time of recovery or test for infection) or who have already received at least one vaccination.
Since early March numerous people have received their cards that verify their “immunity,” however, they could not use the cards for any purpose. Now, the government announced that as soon as four million vaccinations are administered in Hungary, people will have the chance to visit different venues and enjoy activities that have been so far restricted, such as going to theaters, museums, or cinemas, as long as they have their immunity cards with them.
However, it seems that not everyone will have the opportunity to benefit from the new rules which are likely to enter into effect in early May. There is one pre-condition in case of vaccination that needs to be met, in order for venues to accept the cards. The vaccines must be administered in Hungary in order to receive the certificate.
According to Telex.hu, a Hungarian couple got their vaccinations in Serbia, when they were informed that if they wanted to receive vaccination certificates, their vaccinations should have been administered in Hungary. The couple decided to write to the National Public Health Center (NKK).
In its answer, the National Public Health Center argues that there is no record in Hungary of the vaccination of Hungarian citizens abroad, and the pre-condition for obtaining an immunity certificate is that the vaccination is received in Hungary (or if someone can prove they had been infected).
As this case demonstrates, there are several questions that this raises. First and foremost, what can be done by someone who has already received at least one vaccine abroad? Should they register in Hungary, wait until the same type of vaccine is offered to them and then take it so that they have the two vaccinations? This might prove to actually be dangerous, as the deadlines between vaccinations should be adhered to strictly, and this approach risks a significant delay.
It is also questionable as to what happens to those who have a Hungarian health insurance number but live in another country, or someone who is a dual citizen, or those with Hungarian ID cards across the border. In many cases, people with dual citizenships have already received both their vaccinations, for instance, in Romania. Should Hungary refuse these people the right to visit theaters or cinemas despite the fact that they are vaccinated and have proof of it? Furthermore, can foreign citizens living permanently and working in Hungary be vaccinated in the country and if not, will the Hungarian authorities accept vaccination certificates issued in another country?
The latter question can be answered in practice already: since only the address, name, and health insurance number is required for vaccine registration, not citizenship, it should not be an obstacle for foreigners living permanently in Hungary to receive a vaccination in the country. However, it can cause problems if they were inoculated abroad.
The European Union is also planning on issuing vaccination certificates with which it would be possible for EU citizens to travel freely within European countries. The document is expected to be available in summer, as many countries expect tourism to relaunch by then. Tourism is also a significant part of the economy in Hungary, so it is crucial to solve the issue of vaccination certificates by the time minimal tourism can relaunch in the summer. So far, the government has not indicated which certificates will be accepted from other countries.
Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI