Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Source: Gergely Gulyás / Facebook

Hungary extends corona restrictions until 1 March

Hungary extends corona restrictions until 1 March

The government has asked Parliament to extend the state of emergency for another 90 days

The partial lockdown across Hungary in response to the Covid-19 pandemic is being extended until 1 March, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, announced at the regular press briefing on Thursday. He pointed out that the restrictions enforced in November have been effective in curbing the coronavirus transmission, the pressure on the healthcare system has subsided, but in order to avoid a third wave, current rules must stay in place.

Thus, the curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. will remain in force. Public gatherings are forbidden. There is no change in the rules about face mask-wearing and social-distancing. Shops, with the exception of pharmacies and petrol stations, can be open until 7 p.m., while restaurants and cafes can only provide takeaway and delivery services.

Mass vaccination key to easing curbs

Gulyás added that the government has asked Parliament to extend the state of emergency for another 90 days. Underscoring the fact that most western European countries are enduring far more severe restrictions, he assumed that some curbs may be relaxed but only if active case numbers decline or enough vaccines are rolled out.  

Hungary, with a population of about 10 million, has registered 363 450 infections and 12 291 deaths from the novel coronavirus. To date, Hungary has vaccinated 161 215 people with Pfizer / Biontech and Moderna vaccines, according to government data.

Gulyás said vaccines coming from EU supplies would not be enough to achieve mass vaccination, so the government has green-lighted the application of any coronavirus vaccine used to inoculate over one million people worldwide and licensed for emergency use elsewhere. Last week, Hungary became the first EU country to buy Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told Kossuth Radio on Friday that a Hungarian vaccine factory will be built in Debrecen to reduce the country's dependence in the future.

Economic supports late in coming

Citing the hospitality industry as the main victim of the pandemic in economic terms, Gulyás said the government is taking steps to speed up the payment of wage support for affected entrepreneurs. He specified that since the scheme’s introduction in November, the sector’s players have applied for a total of HUF 27 billion, 7 billion of which has already been paid out. 

The entrepreneurs themselves are much less optimistic. The Hungarian Catering Association told Hungary Today that the owners of catering businesses have run out of reserves, and 90 percent of the association members still have not received their wage subsidies for November. Struggling to stay in business, a number of restaurants in Budapest, Miskolc and elsewhere are reopening in protest, despite an imminent government crackdown, Hungarian media have reported.

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