Hungary Declares State of Emergency Over Coronavirus

The government has ordered a state of emergency in connection with protective measures against the new coronavirus, Gergely Gulyas, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, said on Wednesday.

Gulyas said the government had made its decision in line with a proposal by the interior minister and the operative board.

The government has ordered a ban on travellers from Italy, China, South Korea and Iran, except for Hungarian citizens arriving from those locations who will have to stay in isolation at home for two weeks after arrival, Gulyas added.

In order to enforce the travel restrictions, border controls will be reintroduced on Hungary’s Schengen borders with Slovenia and Austria.

All trains, buses and flights from the countries in question will be subjected to general border control measures. Full border control rules are planned to be introduced also on the Hungary-Croatia border by midnight on Wednesday, he added.

The government has also decided to ban indoor events with more than 100 people attending, while outdoor events with more than 500 will also be subject to the ban, Gulyas said. It will be the organisers’ responsibility to cancel events, he added.

Any documents that are to expire in the near future will remain valid during the state of emergency, he added.

All measures will remain valid until further notice, he said.

The measures which Gulyas said were unprecedented since Hungary’s transition to democracy 30 years ago would give the most comprehensive authorisation for protection to state bodies.

He added that the constitution included clear rules for the state of emergency and the disaster management law specified detailed regulations.

The government has introduced a ban on university visits but remote study options will remain open as a protective measure in the fight against the coronavirus, Gulyas said.

Universities will start closing down on Thursday, he added. Gulyas noted that Hungarian universities have a high number of foreign students, adding that out of Hungary’s 13 coronavirus cases so far 9 were foreign nationals.

He said schools will remain open for the time being but this may change if it becomes necessary for protection of life and health. He argued that the virus was not typically affecting children, and closing primary schools could involve having to repeat the whole school-year.

The government has also decided to suspend the Hatartalanul! (With no borders) school trip programme, and will also postpone by one year language courses planned for the summer holidays.
Gulyas said that people spreading rumours or violating quarantine rules would be prosecuted.

Making false statements regarding travel will be sanctioned, he said, adding that the information could be checked from mobile phones location data.

Gulyas said priority will be given to protection of life and health, to be followed by prevention of economic losses.

The epidemic will certainly have considerable economic consequences and the majority of countries are now fighting to avoid recession, he said.

“Hungary’s chances for this are among the best,” he added.

In response to a question regarding travel restrictions in the case of mixed Hungarian-foreign couples, he said special rules could be introduced in the future but for the time being, only Hungarian citizens are allowed to return from the countries in question.

Gulyas said that the ban on indoor events with more than 100 participants would not apply to parliament because it is regarded a constitutional body which would gather even under extraordinary situations like a war.

He said in response to a question that an adequate number of coronavirus tests were available in 37 laboratories around the country.

He added that various theatre and cinema screenings are likely to be cancelled but the ban on indoor events with more than 100 participants would not apply to shopping malls.

Creches and kindergartens are managed by local councils and it will remain in their authority to decide whether to close them or not, he said.

Large companies with many workers are also suggested to introduce necessary measures based on in-house decisions, he said.

You can read this article as it originally appears at Hungary Journal here.

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(PHOTO: ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images)

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