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Hungary extends restrictions, lays out plans for reopening

Hungary extends restrictions, lays out plans for reopening

The opposition has dubbed government’s crisis management “a crime against the Hungarian people”

The Hungarian government published on Saturday afternoon two decrees dealing with the extension of pandemic restrictions across the country, and the conditional opening of shops, services and schools in the future, telex.hu reports.

Current restrictions remain in effect until 8 April, at the earliest. The basic rules now in place will not change: everybody must wear a face mask, be at home by 8 pm according to the curfew requirements, and some shops stay closed. 

2,5 million people vaccination threshold

The second decree lays out a plan of reopening, which, according to telex.hu, seems a bit unrealistic amid a raging pandemic. The relaxation of measures is conditional on 2.5 million people to have received at least their first jab.

If that happens, the curfew will be shortened to be in effect between 10 at night and 5 in the morning. Also, all shops and service providers will be able to work as they did before 8 March, when the new, strict rules to contain the third wave of the coronavirus were introduced.

So, shops will be able to remain open until 9:30 pm instead of closing at 7 pm. Territorial rules will also change, with only one customer apart from the shopkeeper allowed in shops smaller than 10 square metres. In retail areas larger than 10 m², there can be one customer for every 10 square metres.

There are exemptions for assisted minors under the age of 14, seniors over 65, and disabled persons. Restaurants, on the other hand, will still be restricted to takeaway service only.

Shopkeepers must clearly indicate how many people can be inside the premises at one time, are obliged to provide hand sanitizers, and keep customers 1.5 metres apart at all times. Breaking the rules can bring a fine ranging from HUF 100 000 (EUR 300) to HUF 1 mln (EUR 3,000). Also, the facility can be closed down for up to one year. The police, the capital and county government offices, and even the Hungarian Armed Forces are entrusted with monitoring compliance.

Educational institutions, including kindergartens, elementary schools, and high schools, will certainly continue remote learning until 19 April.

Crisis management taken to task

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s management of the coronavirus crisis “has not only been a failure”, but it “has also created such chaotic conditions that have brought Hungary’s health-care system to ruin”, reads a joint statement by Hungary’s opposition parties issued on Saturday.

In the statement, quoted by Hungary Today, the Socialist Party, Jobbik, the Democratic Coalition, Párbeszéd, LMP and the Momentum Movement express their bewilderment of “how a government that has granted itself unlimited power can create a situation in the middle of a global pandemic that leads to 5,500 doctors and other health-care staff quitting the field.

Every single measure aimed at containing the pandemic was introduced three to four weeks too late, which, tragically, gave the virus a huge advantage, claims the opposition. According to the statement signatories, millions of Hungarians had been left to fend for themselves, receiving “nothing more than platitudes spouted on public television”, billboard ads and “false promises”. 

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