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Masks are already recommended on Budapest public transport , Source: BKK

Hungary: mask mandate on public transport and compulsory vaccination for civil servants

Hungary: mask mandate on public transport and compulsory vaccination for civil servants

With the government dragging its feet on fresh Covid curbs, Budapest and other municipalities are taking the initiative

After weeks of ignoring health experts’ advice for stricter Covid-19 mitigation measures amid surging cases, the Orbán administration will reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing on Hungarian public transport from 1 November. The decision was announced on Thursday by the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyás, at his regular weekly press briefing.

Wrong conviction

Only the government is authorized to impose mask mandates, so Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony and the Budapest Transport Centre (BKK), have already recommended that masks be worn by public transport users in the capital while travelling and at stops.

The government’s reluctance so far can be attributed to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s firm conviction - disputed by most experts - that the pandemic can be controlled through mass vaccination alone, while mask-wearing, social distancing and other protective measures have little effect on its course. But faced with active infections doubling in a week to 31,544 and hospitalizations rising to 1,970, with 204 needing intensive care (koronavirus.gov.hu data), the government now appears to listen to reason.

Civil servants must be jabbed

Two more government decisions aimed at slowing down the spread of coronavirus were announced. The first one entails a nationwide ban on hospital visits which follows similar moves by a number of hospitals.  

In a U-turn on its stance regarding compulsory vaccination, the Orbán administration also gave employers the right to require Covid jabs from their employees. So far, vaccination was mandatory only for healthcare workers. Gergely Gulyás indicated that the state, as an employer, will also apply the measure meaning that civil servants will have to present proof of vaccination. Mayors will be entitled to introduce the requirement at local councils as well.

Restrictions for Budapest nursing homes

Gergely Karácsony announced on his Facebook page that, unfortunately, restrictive measures will be put in place in the municipal nursing homes. From 2 November, care home residents who have an immunity card will be allowed to leave (accompanied by another immunity card holder) but will be isolated on their return to protect others and tested with free rapid tests. Non-contact visits by relatives will still be possible provided that they have an immunity card.

Some Hungarian cities like Eger and Kazincbarcika have already introduced stricter measures in line with those in the capital, including obligatory mask-wearing at masses and in municipal institutions, reports Hungary Today. Mask mandates are also in place in some universities.

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